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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 > December
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 9, 2005

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INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

International Human Rights Day Statement
Dialogue with International Committee of the Red Cross
Access to U.S. Detainee Facilities / Geneva Convention Requirements

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Hamas Announcement Ending Truce with Israel / Violence Against Civilians
A/S Welchs Visit to the Region / Work in the Middle East Peace Process

CANADA

Montreal Climate Change Conference / U.S. Commitments
Former President Clintons Attendance

AUSTRALIA

Possible Meeting in January on Climate Change

SAUDI ARABIA

Pre-9/11 Warning to the Saudis on Possible Airplane Hijacking

SOUTH KOREA

Possible Unofficial Six-Way Talks

IRAQ

Query on American Contractor Reportedly Killed in Kirkuk
Clarification on American Contractor Killed Near Kirkuk

VENEZUELA

Reports of Venezuela Joining MERCOSOR


TRANSCRIPT:

1:13 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI: Thank you all for coming. It's really great to see you. And it's Friday, so we'll be putting out a statement after the briefing, commemorating International Human Rights Day which is tomorrow, giving you this statement one day ahead of the briefing, so -- one day ahead of the day, so that you can use it to write your stories on human rights and the vital importance the United States attaches to human rights in its diplomacy and statement of support for brave and courageous men and women around the world who are fighting to enjoy the same fundamental freedoms that we enjoy in our country.

With that, I'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: This may be at a transition you provided, but a State Department legal advisor in Geneva is saying the United States is yet to grant the International Red Cross access to all its terrorist detainees. That's according to the Red Cross chief. Could you get into that a little bit, please?

MR. ERELI: Well, I think this is a -- should be a fairly well-known aspect of U.S. policy. It's been obviously an issue of discussion between us and the ICRC for some time. I'd say we have a -- we value that dialogue with the ICRC. We are committed to continue to working with them closely. And as -- again, as the Secretary has said and as others have said, our approach in dealing with the issue of prisoners and detainees is to act -- not our approach -- our firm policy is to act consistent with U.S. laws and international obligations. And pursuant to those laws, pursuant to those obligations, we provide access to -- we do not consider under the Geneva Convention, those members -- members of al-Qaida as covered by the Geneva Convention. But at the same time, even though we're not legally required to do so, we do provide access to the vast majority of detainees under our control. There are some, however, that we do not.

QUESTION: Is there a distinction there of their nationality?

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: No. All right. I mean, even the Nazis provided Red Cross access to -- what am I trying to say?

MR. ERELI: Well, I'd hope you'd rephrase the question because I reject the comparison wholeheartedly.

QUESTION: No, I'm not comparing. I'm not comparing. I'm saying, even in that situation the Red Cross -- of course, they were mock visits -- people were given blankets and then they were taken away.

MR. ERELI: Let's be clear. Let's be clear.

QUESTION: So why can't the Red Cross get to see what's going on in these detention centers?

MR. ERELI: The Red Cross does see what's going on in detention centers and as do others. And in fact, I would take this opportunity today to remind you of something that was announced in Brussels earlier today, that the Organization for Security and -- a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in the parliamentary assembly, Ms. Lizin, herself is going to Guantanamo to get a briefing and a tour and a visit to those facilities.

So I think our record of providing access and openness to our facilities is good and second to none in these unprecedented kind of circumstances. But let's also be clear, the Geneva Conventions, and this is something that was realized by the drafters of the Geneva Convention over 50 years ago, said that there are a category of individuals that do not fall under their provisions. And al-Qaida and those who are not prisoners of war or do not qualify as prisoners of war are not subject to the Geneva Conventions.

Now, we, as a -- and we believe that as a matter of law and policy, there are certain categories of detainees that are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. Most of them, the vast majority of them, we have -- even though we're not legally required to do so -- we have treated them and considered them subject to the Geneva Conventions to the point where the ICRC can visit them. But we're not -- there are others that, as a matter of law and policy, those provisions don't apply.

QUESTION: Can you say what the distinction is?

MR. ERELI: I cannot.

QUESTION: Does it go to prisoners of war -- the prisoner of war issue?

MR. ERELI: I think it goes to the -- it really goes to the category of those who pose such a security threat that exceptional circumstances are required.

QUESTION: The ICRC says it's in intense dialogue with you to try and get access to these detainees in secret prisoners or wherever they are. What are you telling them in this intensive dialogue? Are you telling them what you're telling us here now? And if you have nothing to hide, then why do you not just let them have access to these people? It looks bad. It looks as if you're speaking with, you know, a forked tongue. It looks as if you're not following through on the promises that the Secretary made this week.

MR. ERELI: I guess I'd make two points. One, as I said earlier, we have an ongoing dialogue with the ICRC on a whole range of issues. We value that dialogue. We respect the mandate and role of the ICRC. We also don't discuss the details of our dialogue because the ICRC operates on the principle of confidentiality and we respect that.

On the question of, "If you have nothing to hide, why don't you just show them," again, I would refer back to our discussions of earlier this week where we tried to explain the tough choices that are posed to us in this war on terror, the tough choices between protecting the American people, adhering to our legal obligations and principles as a nation. And I think that we have -- in fact, I would state unreservedly that we have been able to balance those two alternatives or those two elements in the policy and in our practice.

Part of that consideration deals with to what extent does full openness and transparency compromise security. And in any war, as I've said earlier, there are things that need to remain classified, that need to remain in intelligence or other channels that aren't open to public scrutiny. And I would say that those are considerations which inform our decisions on these things.

I would also say that, again, as I referred to in my remarks earlier, that everything we do is based on a firm commitment and adherence to the law and is consistent with a policy of being legal and being accountable.

QUESTION: Just one more thing on the European parliamentarian who you say can go to Guantanamo Bay. Will she be allowed to speak directly to detainees because this was an issue with the -- UN's torture investigator previously?

MR. ERELI: Right. She is going to Guantanamo and being provided the same degree of access that have been provided to hundreds of members of our Congress, as well as members of the -- thousands of members of the press, and the same degree of access that was offered to the UN Special Rapporteurs.

QUESTION: Mr. Kellenberger is --

QUESTION: Limited access in other words?

MR. ERELI: Access appropriate to her authority and her mandate.

QUESTION: Mr. Kellenberger – there are two interpretations at least to what he's saying, but he says the Red Cross wants access without geographical -- without any geographical limitation.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I don't know if he means we want access, period, at any place or are the limitations geographically inspired?

MR. ERELI: I can't elaborate on Mr. Kellenberger's remarks.

QUESTION: No. I mean, from your view, from the U.S. view, are you limiting access in certain areas, like Guantanamo?

MR. ERELI: I don't have details for you, Barry.

QUESTION: Sorry, just to clarify. You said that some prisoners aren't subject to the Geneva Convention.

MR. ERELI: No. I said that -- be clear about this.

QUESTION: You did say --

MR. ERELI: Let me clarify then. Under the Geneva Conventions, we are required to provide access to prisoners of war or others protected by the convention. Members of al-Qaida detained by the United States are neither prisoners of war, nor protected persons, therefore there's no legal requirement to provide ICRC access to them. Nevertheless, and even though we're not required to do so, we do provide access to the vast majority of detainees under our control, and we do accord Geneva protections to them.

QUESTION: That's your interpretation of the Geneva --

MR. ERELI: That's our -- no, our interpretation is we're not required to; our policy is we do.

QUESTION: Okay. But then the Secretary has gone around Europe saying that we abide by international laws.

MR. ERELI: Yes, and so.

QUESTION: But countries --

MR. ERELI: There's no inconsistency between those two statements.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) saying prisoners aren't subject to the Geneva Convention, which brings on the other question (inaudible) all prisoners then subject to (inaudible.)

MR. ERELI: Let's take a step back. Let's take a step back. The Geneva Convention covers prisoners of war. The people that were being held and that we're talking about are not prisoners of war, so they are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. Nevertheless, they're al-Qaida, they're terrorists, they -- for a variety of legal reasons and by a variety of legal definitions, they do not qualify as prisoners of war. Nevertheless, we're treating them consistent with the Geneva Conventions, so we're going the extra mile here.

QUESTION: Except for that access issue.

MR. ERELI: Well, there are some -- there are some that we choose or that we -- that as a matter of law and policy, we do not apply those provisions to. And those are, as I was telling Barry, exceptional cases that pose unique threats to our security.

QUESTION: Isn't the United States engaged in the war on terrorism, but is that rhetoric, meaning it isn't a declared, congressionally authorized, God knows, war? Is that the hang up? We are, according to the President, every day, several times a day, the U.S. is involved in a war to counter terrorism.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Now, that's not the kind of war that is covered by the Geneva Convention, I take it?

MR. ERELI: Well --

QUESTION: It's certainly an informal war --

MR. ERELI: -- what you're asking, frankly, is to get into a legal explanation of what a prisoner of war is and what a prisoner of war isn't. That is, frankly, something that our experts and our officials have spoken to, on the public record, extensively. And I think we've made the case quite convincingly -- it's convincing to me but -- that the detainees we're talking about are outside the scope or do not qualify as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.

In the vast majority of cases, however, as I said before, we are treating them consistent with the Geneva Convention, including access.

QUESTION: Well, let's -- sorry, under international law, if they're out of the scope of the Geneva Convention, are they out of the scope of any other international laws?

MR. ERELI: Good legal question. Can't answer that.

QUESTION: Well, it's an important question because the Secretary of State is going around Europe saying that, you know, CAT applies to all prisoners held in U.S. custody.

MR. ERELI: You're asking me to give you a legal opinion. Not being a legal expert, I can't do that. What I can tell you is that the answer to your question, broadly speaking is, when we have people under our authority, we treat them consistent with any person -- any person -- we treat consistent with our law and our international obligations. And I'll leave it to the -- and that's as expansive as I can be on that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: A U.S. Senator has written a letter to the Attorney General, seeking clarification over remarks made by Secretary Rice, which seemed to contradict with the Attorney General. He quoted Secretary Rice as saying, that as a matter of U.S. policy, the U.S. obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: And the Attorney General had said, in a congressional testimony earlier, that the Department of Justice had concluded that under Article 16, there's no legal prohibition under the Convention Against Torture on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas?

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Do you confirm this?

MR. ERELI: Well, I'll leave it to others to speak to the Congressional letter and the response. There is no -- there is no daylight between the Department of State and the Department of Justice on this issue. And I think if you look at the record carefully, you will see that statements by the Secretary of State are fully consistent and consonant with statements by the Attorney General on the applicability of the Convention Against Torture, including provisions on CID.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said that only a very small percentage of these enemy combatants -- or however we're describing these people are -- are not provided with access to the ICRC. How many are you talking about when you say a very small percentage? Are you saying, like, five percent, ten percent? Can you give us --

MR. ERELI: I'd say a very small --

QUESTION: I mean, (inaudible) what does that mean?

MR. ERELI: I can't, honestly, because as I said, you know, there are certain -- I can't give you a numerical figure. I can say that it's exceptional circumstances.

QUESTION: There's -- on that point, can you give us a hypothetical -- I wouldn't dare ask you for any real example -- but a hypothetical of what would be an exceptional circumstance that wouldn't allow you to acknowledge to the ICRC, in which you don't acknowledge publicly, but to allow them to see prisoners? What circumstance, hypothetically, might that come up?

MR. ERELI: No, I would say, frankly, that's a matter of, I think, part of the dialogue with the ICRC that I'd just wouldn't like to go in publicly.

QUESTION: Are you discussing the nature of the visit because there's a difference between a Red Cross person coming in and eyeballing the prisoners and dealing with the confines and questioning him. Is the issue how much the Red Cross representative can do if he gains access? Is that --

MR. ERELI: No, the issue is access. .

QUESTION: The issue is access. Okay.

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, just to follow that. It's not an issue of wanting the ICRC to know that you have X person?

MR. ERELI: I'm not sure on that one. I'm not sure.

QUESTION: Well, it's the same question --

QUESTION: Just one more on this subject. I mean, can you just explain again why you cannot give the ICRC access to these people when their reports are confidential? That information won't come out, where they're being held, who they are. There's -- in other words, there's nothing on your side that you're compromising.

MR. ERELI: Well, that's not -- that -- I wouldn't agree with that at all. I would say that, number one, there's no legal requirement to do so. Number two, as a matter of policy, most -- the vast majority are treated under the -- treated consistent with the Geneva Conventions. There's a very small, limited number that are not because of the extraordinary threat that they pose.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. ERELI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What's the reaction about Khaled Meshal's announcement today or Hamas's announcement today that the truce with Israel is over? And how would this reflect Ambassador Welch --

MR. ERELI: Well, I hadn't seen the announcement. We've always made clear that truces are good only insofar as they go, and that's really not very far. Why? Because as long as groups have the capability and the will to commit acts of terror, then they are a threat to the international system. And that -- at a given moment of time they choose or don't choose to do so is not the issue. The issue is the capability and belief that violence against innocent civilians is a legitimate form of political struggle. And that is a bankrupt ideology and Hamas is a good representative of that school of thought. And for that reason, we think that they've got -- that the Palestinian Authority needs to take concrete action to prevent groups like Hamas or groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad or others from pursuing its dangerous and certainly counterproductive for the Palestinian people -- its dangerous and counterproductive policies.

QUESTION: Would this affect Ambassador Welch's visit to Israel?

MR. ERELI: Well, like I said, it's really nothing new in the sense that you've got a terrorist organization that is active in subverting the will of the Palestinian people. Assistant Secretary Welch is in -- is visiting the region to help the Palestinian people.

So on the one hand, you have Assistant Secretary Welch working with the Palestinians, working to bring to -- to promote cooperation with the Israelis, to provide Palestinians increased movement and access to goods and economic opportunity and move forward in their desire to create a state. Then you have that -- on the one hand, Welch representing the United States and its commitment to that; and on the other hand, a group that is dedicated to putting explosive vests around the chests of young women or young boys and sending them into Israeli cafés or discothèques and blowing them up and setting back all the efforts of the people of goodwill and
peaceful intention, either in the United States or Israel or the Palestinian Authority, that's what we think of it.

Yes.

QUESTION: The Canadian Prime Minister yesterday said that the United States needs to listen to its global conscience when it comes to global warming, an issue that's apparently caused enough consternation for some message to be delivered to Canada's ambassador here. How would you describe the substance of that message?

MR. ERELI: Which one, the Canadian message or the United States message?

QUESTION: No, no. Well, you can pick, but what I'd really like to know is the United States and the message that it wanted delivered to Canada.

MR. ERELI: Well, our Under Secretary for Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky, is in Montreal right now, helping to draft a final communiqué for the climate change conference. What I would say is this, that, you know, we believe in dialogue. I don't think there's any country that is more committed or has a better record of performance on dealing with the challenges presented by climate change and the new technologies that we all confront. And Paula is there leading the U.S. delegation to try to make progress in dealing with these challenges and she's done a couple of important things.

We've achieved a major accomplishment in agreeing to adaptation. In other words, helping developing countries adapt to the changes that are being brought about by alterations to the climate. We have explored and come to agreement on a number of important private sector -- private/public partnerships that match -- that bring together in an integrated way our approach to both development and environmental awareness and environmental responsibility. And finally, we've talked about and achieved agreement on a number of initiatives regarding technology transfer and capacity building.

So if you want to talk about global consciousness, I'd say there's one country that is focused on action, that is focused on dialogue, that is focused on cooperation and is focused on helping the developing world, and that's the United States. And we look forward and we value the cooperation that we have with our global partners and Canada is one of them.

QUESTION: Same subject. Whoever it was that met with the Canadian Ambassador --

MR. ERELI: Here?

QUESTION: Yeah, here. Did he or she complain that this was a campaign trick by Martin?

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of the meeting that took place. I can -- with regard to the specific question, let me see: (a) if a meeting took place and (b) if I can offer you any readout of it.

QUESTION: While we're --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, while we're at such things -- on such things, there's an environment a (inaudible) Asian Pacific environment conference next month in Australia. Ministers are invited. Will the Secretary represent the United States?

MR. ERELI: The East Asia summit next week?

QUESTION: No, next month, I believe.

MR. ERELI: Oh, in Australia.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: Oh --

QUESTION: It's climate. Environment, climate.

MR. ERELI: Right. I think you raise an interesting point and I don't have it in front of me, but in answer to your question -- and I thank you for bringing it up, Barry -- the Deputy Secretary announced when he was at the ASEAN ministerial along with the Foreign Minister of Australia a broad-based and -- Foreign Minister of Australia and India and China and others, a broad-based initiative to deal with climate change that represents a real and groundbreaking international partnership that I think is eloquent testimony to the concern that the United States has about this issue; the commitment that it brings to it in terms of resources, including money and creative thinking; and the multilateral diplomacy that lies behind our approach to this issue.

And we agreed at that time to have a follow-up meeting in Australia at the ministerial level. That meeting, I believe, is planned for January. I don't have any announcements as to who will be attending from our side, but it will definitely be somebody appropriately senior.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: In terms of the bilateral relationship, though, between Canada and the U.S., is the Administration angry by Prime Minister Paul Martin's comments?

MR. ERELI: The Administration is focused on achieving an objective, and that objective is mounting an effective response to the challenges presented by climate change. That's the spirit with which we went to Montreal. That's the spirit that we bring to tackling this problem and dealing with our partners, including Canada.

QUESTION: But we're hearing that people from the U.S. Administration are talking about retaliation.

MR. ERELI: Oh, please, I don't get into that game from the podium.

QUESTION: Okay, just one more question. Former Prime -- or excuse me, former President Bill Clinton is going to be speaking at the Montreal Climate Change. Is he speaking on the U.S. Administration's behalf or is -- how does the U.S. Administration look upon that?

MR. ERELI: President Clinton is speaking as a former President of the United States. He's also speaking at a public event in connection with the UN Climate Change conference. It's not an official event of the Climate Change conference that I'm aware of. We think that President Clinton has important and interesting ideas and we certainly encourage the kind of presentations that he and others bring, but they are clearly distinct from the official -- separate from the official U.S. delegation.

QUESTION: Just so I'm clear on this point, there were reports that because Prime Minister Paul Martin made these comments that the U.S., you know, unidentified sources said that that pretty much nixed all hopes of the U.S. being drawn into this process that they're trying to --

MR. ERELI: I would urge you to read unidentified comments and anonymous sources with a degree of -- with a grain of salt. I mean, it's one thing to say -- express one person's opinion, whoever that might be -- we don't know because they're anonymous -- and another thing to express it on behalf of the U.S. Government. What I'm telling you from the podium is on behalf of the U.S. Government publicly and I would leave -- I would just discount those other kind of statements.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: One more on that. I mean, but the central question is will the U.S. then take part in these open-ended discussions on trying to cut emissions? I think there's doubt whether the U.S. will, whether it'll veto -- it'll basically just --

MR. ERELI: I think the United States -- the United States believes in dialogue and action. But as far as a schedule for talks, discussions leading to negotiations there's, I think questions – it’s questionable whether that serves the goals that we're all working for.

QUESTION: Has the Bush Administration come to the view that climate change is a problem?

MR. ERELI: I think that would be hard -- well, there's no change in our policy on climate change, let me put it that way.

QUESTION: There's been great resistance. Let me put it this way, there’s been five years of resistance to the Clinton Administration and others who thought there was a serious menace out there.

MR. ERELI: I think -- well, there's a challenge that we are committed to dealing with.

QUESTION: Newly declassified State Department documents by the National Security archives show that a few years in 1998, three years before 9/11, U.S. officials at the Embassy in Riyadh warned the Saudi government that bin Laden -- Usama bin Laden could use a civilian -- could hijack a civilian aircraft in a terrorist attack. Do you think that this warning was taken seriously enough by the Saudis? In the cable it says that the officials asked them to take more urgent measures in terms of airport screening, things like that. Do you think that proper measures were taken?

MR. ERELI: I haven't seen the documents you refer to so I can't speak to them. There has been so much exhaustive study done of what we knew prior to the events of 9/11 and what we should have known and what we did and what we should have done that, frankly, I don't have anything to add to the volumes and volumes that already exist on the subject.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On South Korea -- sorry, six-way talks. Is the United States planning on sending Ambassador Hill or DeTrani to South Korea for some informal six-way talks on -- I think it's December the 19th?

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that there are any such talks scheduled. I'll have to check and see.

QUESTION: Scheduled?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. I -- again, it was an idea that had been floated that was being discussed, but I'm not aware that there's been any resolution of it one way or the other. So again, it's -- at this point, it's a hypothetical.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: On the subject of the McCain-Graham -- I can't remember all the senators' names attached to the legislation. It's kind of going back to the Guantanamo stuff, though, but not the same issue. Is the State Department weighing in on this or is this just a Hadley-McCain negotiation at this point?

MR. ERELI: This is something the Administration is working with members of Congress. The action is, as you say, in the White House, so I'd refer you to them for discussion of it.

QUESTION: About the habeas corpus provisions --

MR. ERELI: Can't -- can't -- I'm not in a position to get into any detail of those discussions.

QUESTION: Is that because it's strictly the White House dealing with it?

MR. ERELI: Well, that's -- that and I don't know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sorry to go back to the South Korean preliminary talks. Is that something that the United States thinks would be helpful?

MR. ERELI: The United States is of the view that we are amenable in principle to that to which the other four -- five parties can agree.

QUESTION: That being once --

MR. ERELI: If -- we are amenable to proposals and to this proposal on principle should the other five parties agree, but I'm not aware that they have.

QUESTION: But somebody has to propose -- I guess effectively --

MR. ERELI: The South Koreans have proposed it.

QUESTION: And the U.S., too.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean --

MR. ERELI: You know, I'm not sure that we're talking about the same thing.

QUESTION: What is that? The informal talks?

QUESTION: Which sounds like preliminary --

MR. ERELI: Yeah, this is an idea that's --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) to Beijing.

QUESTION: Jim Foster of the State Department's Office of Korean Affairs --

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I -- let me check and see if I've got something more for you. I was talking about a previous proposal that had been thrown out -- that had been put forward by the South Koreans to have a informal in December in South Korea with the six parties. That -- if that's the same thing you're talking about, my understanding is that there's been no consensus reached on whether to have that or not.

QUESTION: But the U.S. is agreeable to this?

MR. ERELI: And I'm saying that our position is if this is something that the other five want to do, then I don't know that we would have an objection.

QUESTION: Change of topic. Is there any confirmation of the killing -- the reported killing of the American contractor?

MR. ERELI: No.

QUESTION: Same as the one -- you're staying with the White House -- no identi -- you can't -- no conclusions?

MR. ERELI: About the status of the contractor?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: No. No, we don't know --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) was he or whether --

MR. ERELI: No, we have --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. ERELI: We have concluded -- I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What is it that you cannot confirm? The identity, the name or --

MR. ERELI: The claim of having been killed.

QUESTION: -- or there being --

MR. ERELI: The claim of having been killed.

QUESTION: Oh.

QUESTION: What about the contractor that you said was killed yesterday near Kirkuk? Do you have any more information about that? Was that -- do you have any reason to believe that was a hostage situation?

MR. ERELI: No, no, that was a case of a vehicle coming under fire.

QUESTION: By who?

MR. ERELI: Not clear at this point.

QUESTION: Are you still in touch with the family?

MR. ERELI: Of the hostage, yes.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can you comment on a report today about how information from Al-Libby was obtained, both how and where?

MR. ERELI: No, uh-uh.

QUESTION: You have no new information?

MR. ERELI: Nothing.

QUESTION: You can't confirm that or --

MR. ERELI: No --

QUESTION: No reaction?

MR. ERELI: Nothing on that at all.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Okay. All right, on the record. Go ahead, we'll just do it up here.

QUESTION: Venezuela is going to join MERCOSUR, which seems to be emerging as a rival to the Free Trade of the Americas.

MR. ERELI: Oh, I don't see it as a rival.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:48 p.m.)

DPB # 210



Released on December 9, 2005

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