01 July 2004
State Department Noon Briefing, July 1
Iraq, Libya, Israel/Palestinians, Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Japan, Indonesia, Syria
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli briefed reporters June 30.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, July 1, 2004
12:50 p.m. EDT
BRIEFER: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
-- Role of US in Saddam Trial / Legal Principles Guiding Trial / Iraqi Commitment
to Fair Trial
-- Status of MEK Detainees
-- Position of New Iraqi Government
-- Existence of Diplomatic Relations
-- GAO Report on Security / Infrastructure Conditions in Iraq
-- Al-Zarqawi Reward Increase / Justification
-- Plans to Open U.S. Interest Section
-- Assistant Secretary Burns in Libya
-- Assistant Secretary Burns Meetings
-- Easing of Humanitarian Restrictions on Movement of Palestinians
-- Security Commitments
-- Legal Review of Genocide / US Actions
-- Powell Visit
-- Discussions on Draft UN Security Council Resolution / Timetable
-- Genocide Criteria / Accountability
-- FM Comments
-- Secretary Powell Meeting with Paek Nam-sun
-- Army Deserter Jenkins / US Position / Extradition Treaties Among U.S.-Japan
-- Nuclear Missile Testing
-- Hong Kong Demonstrations
-- Wang Bingzhung Case Update
-- Human Rights Conditions
-- Election Status / Voter Registration
-- Security Situation and Elections
-- Diplomatic Exchange
-- US Embassy 4th of July Celebration/Ceremony
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 108
THURSDAY, JULY 1, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:50 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: No announcements today. So who would like to have the first question?
QUESTION: I haven't got anything.
MR. ERELI: Something's amiss. Barry doesn't have a question.
QUESTION: No, I have nothing but --
QUESTION: Oh, I have something. Can you talk about what the U.S. is doing to help the Iraqis, in terms of Saddam and the other high-valued detainees case, in terms of assistance and if you could characterize the type of information, at least, that's been provided to the Iraqis thus far?
MR. ERELI: The first point to make here is that, as you all know, and I think as you all saw very, very clearly today in the images coming from Baghdad, that this is an Iraqi process managed by Iraqis, according to Iraqi laws, according to Iraqi procedures. It is Iraqis judging Iraqis.
The role of the United States, the role of others in the international community is to support the Iraqi government, the Iraqi justice system and the Iraqi institutions, as they move forward in bringing to account, bringing to justice those of their citizens who have committed crimes against the nation.
In that regard, I think we've spoken in the past to programs and assistance that we are providing the Iraqi Special Tribunal. As you know, the Iraqi Special Tribunal has been formed to try Saddam Hussein and other Iraqis who have committed crimes. They are currently drafting rules of procedure and evidence.
Some investigations have begun, but they're certainly -- certainly are far away, I think, from collecting everything they need to have. That process is going to take some time. We, as well as our other international partners, are providing assistance to the Iraqis as they go through this process. This is designed to help ensure that they have the resources and the training to conduct fair, open and effective prosecutions.
Within the U.S. Government, the Department of Justice has the lead for this assistance. I would note that our embassy is working closely with the Iraqi legal and judicial authorities in coordinating the assistance. Currently, there is a regime crimes advisor, as well as staff, who are working with Iraqi counterparts to support the Iraqi Special Tribunal.
I would also note that the United States has contributed $75,000,000 to the Iraqi government to help fund the Iraqi Special Tribunal and to fund investigations into crimes of the former regime. As far as evidence is concerned, I really don't have a lot of specific information for that -- on that for you. I would say that we are working with NGOs and others to help compile and share information that we have been able to collect pertaining to matters under consideration by the court. This is a process that has been going on for some time and will continue for some time.
QUESTION: Your answer, which is, you know, very complete, strikes me as contradicting what you said at the outset. If this is an Iraqi process, why doesn't the U.S. let the Iraqis go ahead and judge these people?
Also, you're trying to encourage democracy and I wonder -- I guess they don't have a concept of prejudicial publicity. But do you think Jerry Bremer is saying the Iraqis would tear him apart -- he wouldn't be surprised if they didn't just tear him apart, and the President every day having something to say with how bad Saddam Hussein is, don't you think this somehow intrudes into a process that you're trying -- you would -- I would think you're trying to keep pristine and the way we would have a trial?
The President of the United States would not be making statements and we wouldn't be talking about tearing apart defendants. Why don't you just let it roll on and, you know, you shouldn't have a whole -- there shouldn't be a lot of trouble, the Iraqis finding evidence of terrible misdeeds. Why get involved if you're trying to let them run their own affairs?
MR. ERELI: I'll make a couple of points.
MR. ERELI: Number one, I don't see any contradiction in saying that this is an Iraqi-led process and a process operating under Iraqi laws and Iraqi rules and, at the same time, saying that the international community, including the United States, as well as others, including the United Nations, can be of assistance. That certainly is the pattern in other examples, where you have special tribunals trying former leaders for crimes committed under the regime. It is common practice and certainly consistent with the independence and sovereignty of Iraq.
On the question of influencing the proceedings, I think it's useful to note some of the principles that will be guiding this process and point to the statute of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, the rules of procedure and evidence of the Iraq Special Tribunal, and the principles that are guiding this trial.
Those principles include the presumption of innocence: right of the defendants to a fair trial and a public hearing; right to be notified of the details of the charges; right to legal assistance of one's own choosing and to have that assistance paid for if the defendant is unable to provide for it himself; right to confront witnesses against oneself; and the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself.
These are all, I think, guarantees that exist in the current procedure under Iraqi law that didn't exist for the hundreds of thousands who found themselves the victims of Saddam's brand of justice.
QUESTION: While on paper there are all the, you know, hallmarks of a fair trial, do you think that a fair trial for Saddam Hussein is really possible?
MR. ERELI: I think that the Iraqis are committed to that and that there's a recognition by all involved that this process and its conclusion needs to be fair, be seen as fair, transparent and equitable, and that is what everyone is very mindful of.
QUESTION: Adam, do you have any comment on the Iraqis repealing one of the edicts handed to them by Paul Bremer on the death sentence? They reinstated the death sentence. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't.
QUESTION: So you don't -- you don't advise them one way or the other as to the U.S. position on that since, you know, it was --
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of the facts of the matter, so I'd prefer not to comment on it.
QUESTION: What is the status of the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf, the MEK people who have, up till now, been guarded by U.S. officials, and I presume still are?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that there's any change in that status. What we have said previously about that situation remains the case today, as far as I know. So I don't think there's really anything new to say.
QUESTION: Well, the interim government told you to get them out and the U.S. did nothing about it. They said they wanted them out within a month, and that was months and months ago. So there must have been a decision to do nothing. That's a decision.
MR. ERELI: I think that's a little -- I think you're -- it's a -- you're missing some points. What was -- what the interim government -- or not the interim government -- the Iraq Governing Council, certain members of the Iraq Governing Council said, was that they wished this matter to be disposed of. And what has been happening as a result of that is that there have been discussions and efforts underway to identify -- to go through the people in the areas concerned, identify their involvement with certain activities in the past, and then determine where and how they should be handled.
It is not something that is -- it is not an issue, as you describe, where the Iraqis said they want something and -- but nothing is being done. It is a situation where cases are being reviewed, information is being gone through, and arrangements arrived at and discussed about how to deal with those cases based on the information available. It is not something that is just being sat on.
QUESTION: Okay. Have you heard anything from the new Iraqi government though? Since the handover, everybody's been pretty busy. But to your knowledge, has there been any decision made by the new Iraqi government as to what they want done with these people, or from your discussions, which I presume are underway, they're satisfied with the procedures?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of recent discussions with the interim Iraqi government on this issue. As I said, I think the situation is, for now, where it was before. But for the latest on what the Iraqi government -- how the Iraqi government views the situation, obviously, now that their government is stood up, I think they should -- they could speak to it, if asked.
QUESTION: But people are still considered foreign terrorists, members of a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, is that correct, those that are members of the MEK?
MR. ERELI: The MEK is a Foreign Terrorist Organization and great care is taken to deal with members accordingly.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? I'm sorry if you said this in the beginning of your answer and I just missed it. But whose actually legal custody? Are they still in U.S. -- they're still in U.S. custody; is that correct?
MR. ERELI: My understanding is that there has been no change in the status from what it was before, but I would also refer you to the Department of Defense on that.
QUESTION: Diplomatic relations technically not official yet, right, with Iraq?
MR. ERELI: No, they are official. We've presented our -- presented the credentials of our ambassador and Prime Minister Allawi has recognized the existence of diplomatic relations between the two countries in response to requests from President Bush.
QUESTION: Do they do the reciprocal thing? Did I miss something? Did the Ambassador present her credentials? I don't think so.
MR. ERELI: I don't believe so.
QUESTION: But even so, you would not -- no point to (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: Full diplomatic relations exist between the United States and Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know anything, by the way, about plans, if there are any, for Libya to open an interest section here?
MR. ERELI: As I said earlier, they were invited to open an interest section in February, I believe. No action has yet been taken on that. I refer you to the Libyans, as to what the status of their plans are.
QUESTION: All right, last thing. Libya brings William Burns to mind. And, you know, announcements aren't made when he makes these stops, so perhaps you can bring us up -- unless you did this yesterday -- I was someplace else. He did Libya. He went to Libya?
MR. ERELI: He was in Libya on Monday, I believe --
MR. ERELI: -- and returned to Washington on Tuesday.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: The question is about Israel and the Supreme Court ruling, as well as the detainment of a New Yorker, Ann Petter at the Allud Airport. She's been detained a week.
MR. ERELI: An American citizen detained in Israel?
QUESTION: Well, they won't let her in the country and she refuses to return here to the States. She's part of a group called International Solidarity Movement.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Same group that sponsored Rachel Corey some months ago.
MR. ERELI: And what's the question?
QUESTION: The question is, do you have any comments concerning that?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Adam, a related topic. Now, I know that your position, as far as the checkpoints are concerned, I will -- you know, Israel is well aware of your position, but it's getting really difficult. Today, I just received a call from my newspaper and all our reporters, all the editors, were disallowed to go into the newspaper to work on that. Is there anything happening, as far as easing the restrictions, and so on?
MR. ERELI: There was a Quartet meeting, as you know, in Taba late last week. Assistant Secretary Burns had meetings in Israel with Israeli officials over the weekend. Obviously, the issue of humanitarian -- easing of humanitarian restrictions on movement of Palestinians was discussed. I think we noted that some positive movement had been made in this area. Obviously, it remains an important issue, something that we and the international community are seized with.
I would also say that it is an issue that is tied up with other issues. As you know, there are -- both parties have commitments that need to be fulfilled. On the Palestinian side, there are important security commitments that remain unfulfilled. And so, we make the point to both sides that progress on all fronts is required and I think that that's a reiteration of our longstanding position.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about Sudan, if we can change the subject?
QUESTION: Well, actually, just to follow on this, I mean, why does -- I mean, obviously, the Palestinians have security commitments, but why should easing a humanitarian situation have to be tied up with security commitments? I mean, can they ease --
MR. ERELI: I didn't say it was tied up. I said both sides have them and they are part of a common undertaking, as part of a comprehensive roadmap, and I think it's important when discussing one side's commitments and to also declare that each side has commitments.
QUESTION: Do you happen -- do you have any details on what it is about the situation in Sudan that doesn't meet the test of being genocide? The Secretary gave an interview. I don't know if he spoke to the reporters who were actually sitting in the airplane on the subject, maybe he did, but at least we have an NPR interview in which he said it doesn't reach the level, or reach the whatever.
QUESTION: The what?
QUESTION: Yet. Well, what -- I'm not a student of genocide, so I don't -- I can't infer what it is that hasn't happened yet for Sudan to be judged guilty of genocide by the United States.
MR. ERELI: I'm not a student of genocide either, so I don't know how much I can clarify the issue for you. I think there are two -- there are a couple of points to make. Number one, as we've said for some time, an interagency review on this issue is underway. To arrive at a determination of genocide, certain legal and policy considerations have to be met. Meeting those considerations or deciding -- coming to a decision also requires -- you have to -- you need information to make educated, informed decisions.
We are not yet at the point -- and this is, I think, what the Secretary was saying -- we are not yet at the point where we are, based on the information we have, prepared to make a legal determination that genocide is underway. That doesn't mean that we think it is, that doesn't mean we think it isn't. It simply means that at this stage of the review process, we're not at the point where we can make a legal determination, based on the requirements and the criteria that exist, that there's genocide.
But the other -- so there's nothing new in that. We've been saying that for some time. But the other point that is also important that the Secretary made is that don't assume because we haven't decided that -- because the decision has not yet been made whether or not it's genocide, that somehow we're holding back or that somehow we'd be doing -- we'd be doing things differently in terms of the efforts we're devoting to resolve the situation in Darfur or the actions we're taking in the international community to draw attention to this, that we'd be doing anything differently if it were genocide.
So, in a sense, this is a question that people feel very strongly about, and rightfully so, but for policymakers such as the Secretary of State and the Department of State, it is a decision-making process that, while important, is not having a material impact on what we're doing to solve the situation in Sudan and help the people of Sudan.
QUESTION: He said that there's no reluctance. Now, some of us have a special interest in this because of the general posture of this very conservative Administration on international -- it's been going on a long time. It goes back the American Bar Association in the '60s. There are people who are very -- they're usually very conservative people, who are very reluctant for the United States to be party to, you know, world -- world crime -- a world court war crimes trial, worldwide declarations on hunger, on all sorts of issues that, on the face of it, would seem to be, you know, simple to come down on one side but are concerned about a sovereignty issue.
The way you present it, it sounds like it's a fact question, it's just getting your facts together and you don't have the facts yet; it isn't a philosophic inhibition to be part of something that you fight -- feel or the Administration feels might spin back and bite the United States in the ankle?
MR. ERELI: It is a legal and -- a legal review being conducted by experts and it's not something that's being influenced by partisan considerations as some would suggest.
QUESTION: Well, I didn't mean partisan. I meant philosophical considerations.
QUESTION: Could you maybe find out what more they need to know without giving us specifics of which way they're leaning? I mean, is it number of deaths or participation of government or lack of food and water?
I think those are pretty evident from pictures and reports from there, so I would be interested if you could get us a little bit more on what they're reviewing that they don't see yet, if it's a number --
MR. ERELI: I'll see.
QUESTION: -- a quantity. And yesterday, Secretary Powell said that if we didn't get promises from the Sudanese government that this would stop, we were going to introduce a resolution at the UN. Well, yesterday, you were circulating a draft resolution, so I'm wondering if you have gotten a word that he heard enough on his trip that they aren't planning to formally introduce anything but a draft?
MR. ERELI: Let me review a little bit, the visit, and put this in some context for you. The Secretary spent 20 hours in Sudan. He met with the President, the Vice President, the Secretary, the Foreign Minister, tribal leaders, NGO leaders, the African Union Monitoring Group, as well as the Secretary General. He visited, as you saw today in the pictures, a camp for internally displaced persons in Sudan.
This visit, I think, is a demonstration of the priority the Administration gives to the issue of Sudan and the conflict in Darfur, as well as the importance that we attach to the international community being aware of this issue and acting on it.
The Secretary had frank meetings with his Sudanese counterparts and reached an understanding that this is a security crisis and that the security situation needs to be fixed. The Secretary and the Government of Sudan agreed that specific measures needed to be taken to address the security situation and improve the humanitarian crisis.
The Secretary made it clear that both the United States and the international community are going to remain engaged with this problem. In that regard, we have circulated the draft of a Security Council resolution to members of the Security Council. We have begun discussions on that draft.
At this point, member states have gone back to their capitals to request guidance. I think we look forward to hearing from those who have been to Sudan in the next few days, as to what they found, and we look forward to continuing discussions through next week. Obviously, there is a relation between what happens on the Security Council and what happens in Sudan, so the world is watching.
QUESTION: Adam, why didn't the draft resolution call for any punishment against members of the government? Is that because you haven't conclusively proven specific individuals involved or you're waiting to see what they'll do?
Did they make any promises to the Secretary that they'll do anything and you want to see if they're going to do that? I mean, you said that they agreed that measures needed to be taken, but you didn't say that they agreed to take those measures.
MR. ERELI: Well, let me offer clarification in that regard. The Secretary and the Government agreed on a very specific timetable of steps to be taken and time periods in which those steps should be taken that relate to getting the Jingaweits under control, providing humanitarian assistance, providing international monitoring, engaging in a political process to resolve the dispute with the opposition groups in the region. So there is a very concrete action plan, if you will, that the government agreed to, and that will guide our response to this.
QUESTION: But if the government does not meet that timetable, are you planning on introducing additional measures against the government?
MR. ERELI: I will reiterate what the Secretary said, that we will, obviously, remain seized in this matter and we will be looking for the Government of Sudan to fulfill the commitments it made.
QUESTION: Okay. I just have one more on this. One more on this. Should the Government, the U.S. Government, declare this a genocide? Is that something you do in coordination with the international community? Is that a UN determination?
And could you -- I don't know if you can take this or what, but what -- does that trigger anything, or it's just a term designed to, you know, bring more urgency to the conflict? I mean, what, in effect, would happen? Are you required by law to do anything?
MR. ERELI: My understanding is, there's a -- if the United States determines genocide, then the -- it is our position that those responsible need to be held accountable. There are various mechanisms for doing that, most of which fall under, if not all of which, fall under the -- most of which require some kind of international action so that a finding by the United States is one thing and an important thing, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the international community's going to take action.
There has to be other steps that are taken, either by the UN or by specially constituted tribunals, as we've seen in other places. So the simple answer to your question is, it is an important step but not a conclusive step.
QUESTION: You're not saying that a judgment on -- or are you -- that a U.S. judgment on genocide can be influenced by what happens from here on in, an action plan and all? I mean --
MR. ERELI: I'm not suggesting that.
QUESTION: They either, you know, identified people because of the color of their skin and went out and killed them, or they didn't. If they change their ways, that doesn't erase genocide, it doesn't -- it doesn't -- does it?
MR. ERELI: I'm not suggesting that.
QUESTION: No, no, because you were looking to them to do this, to break the back of the militias. You know, too many people are dead.
MR. ERELI: This is in response to -- this is in --
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MR. ERELI: Sorry, let's -- there are two separate issues here. One is the review of whether the actions taken to date constitute genocide. That is an issue that is under review that has -- that in order to arrive at a decision certain legal and policy criteria have to be met. There is the issue of what are we doing to stop the violence and redress this situation.
Remember, the Secretary, again, pointed out that the goal of all this is to get the people out of their -- out of the camps and back into their homes, living peaceful and productive lives, and to do that security needs to be restored and the Jingaweits need to be put out of business.
And, obviously, there is a relationship between the violence that's been going on and the accusations or investigations of genocide. The focus now is on stopping the violence, getting the people back to their homes and restoring some order and peace to that troubled region.
QUESTION: Okay, okay. But it's not your position that if it's not a genocide that those responsible don't need to be held accountable? I mean, don't you think that whether you -- and if the Secretary's going to say, "What's the difference whether it's genocide? We still have certain things we have to do," don't you think that those that are involved should be held accountable regardless? Because, certainly, some of the things that are being charged, such as rape and ethnic cleansing, constitute war crimes whether you call it a genocide or not.
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak to the legal considerations involved here. I'm not an expert. I don't want to pretend to be able to give you a definitive answer on what provisions come into play and what consequences flow from that. So let me just -- let me just retreat and say this is not an area that I feel competent to speak publicly on.
QUESTION: Well, I appreciate everything you've said, but the State Department has taken the position it is ethnic cleansing.
MR. ERELI: Yes, true.
QUESTION: And it has not taken the position that it's genocide.
MR. ERELI: True.
QUESTION: You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand, to infer from this, that the State Department feels ethnic cleansing isn't, in and of itself, genocide.
MR. ERELI: That is -- that we have said.
QUESTION: Correct. So what's going on there -- ethnic cleansing -- isn't genocide?
MR. ERELI: The question was: even if it's ethnic cleansing, what legal consequences follow from that? And that's a question I'm not prepared to answer.
QUESTION: Will you take the question?
QUESTION: Well, that's a legal question.
QUESTION: Can you take that question?
QUESTION: The Secretary of State --
MR. ERELI: I'll see if we can get an answer for you.
QUESTION: But if the Secretary of State discussed all the issues with the Sudanese counterparts, as you cited, why would the Sudanese Foreign Minister turn around and deny or claim that there is no ethnic cleansing, there is no famine, there is no denial of access --
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that --
QUESTION: -- within an earshot --
MR. ERELI: Excuse me.
QUESTION: -- of the Secretary of State. Why would he --
MR. ERELI: Excuse me. I'm not aware that since the -- that since the Secretary had his conversations and had his press conference last night with the Sudanese that those statements have been made.
QUESTION: He said it yesterday.
MR. ERELI: Before. And I would note that I think in our meetings with the Sudanese there was clearly the recognition that -- by all that there was a problem and that it needed to be dealt with.
QUESTION: Did they make any excuses for why they haven't done it so far?
MR. ERELI: I won't speak to that.
QUESTION: Any elaboration on the timeframe they agreed upon to implement these steps?
MR. ERELI: No, other than it is -- involves the next days and weeks.
QUESTION: I have a question concerning the upcoming talks in Jakarta, your -- about -- the question is, will Colin Powell meet with Paek Nam-sun of North Korea? The answer didn't come, really, yesterday, but --
MR. ERELI: Yeah, and it's not going to come today.
QUESTION: All right. The other question is that General Musharraf has said that he'll continue a nuclear program and test a missile within two months. And there are also reports that Pakistani nuclear Khan scientists are in North Korea. Any comments concerning that?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment on the second part of your question because it's a report. I don't have any information to substantiate it. Pakistan has made clear that it is committed to uprooting or removing, root and branch, the A.Q. Khan network, continuing to investigate its operations, its tentacles, to make sure that it is non-functional. And I think they've been doing a good job of that.
On the issue of missile tests, we clearly remain deeply concerned about the dangers that continue to be posed by both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in South Asia. We continue to urge Pakistan and India to take steps to prevent an arms race and to guard against possible nuclear use.
I would note that, in this regard, we are encouraged that India and Pakistan have just agreed to work toward a number of measures to reduce risks in the region, including a more advanced agreement on notification of missile tests.
QUESTION: Has India done anything recently to elevate the concern to the level that you were concerned about what Pakistan might be up to? It's Pakistan, he's asking about Pakistan.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: This sounds like the old Middle East, even-handed deposition. You know, it's Pakistan that seems to be rattling the cage again. Are you especially concerned about Pakistan? Because your statement sounds like you're concerned with the general situation in the area.
MR. ERELI: I would say there's been no -- there is no marked change in our level of concern regarding this issue. It is an issue that we continue to raise with both countries, and that, I would note, both countries discussed between themselves. And that is a good thing. It is something that we see as a positive development, in the sense that sources of tension are being addressed in a bilateral and cooperative way, and that's to be welcomed.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the report issued by the General Accounting Office that coincided with another report by the CPA, in essence saying that Iraq is worse off today than it was before the invasion, especially in ten areas, electricity, water, sewage, security, you know?
MR. ERELI: No, I haven't seen that report. The short answer to that is, if your comparison is between an Iraq under Saddam Hussein, an Iraq without Saddam Hussein, I find it difficult to argue persuasively that an Iraq free of Saddam Hussein is worse off than an Iraq with Saddam Hussein. That's number one.
Number two, as far as, you know, the security situation goes, it's -- everybody recognizes that this is a significant, important issue, something that needs to be gotten under control, and I don't think there's any lack of will or lack of energy in addressing it.
On the infrastructure, let's -- I think that it's very difficult to make the case persuasively that infrastructure after the war is worse off before the war because infrastructure, in many cases, it's the same infrastructure. In other words, it's 30 -- it's infrastructure that for 30 years has been neglected by a regime that was spending money on palaces, rather than sewers. And the situation that the coalition found itself facing, once Saddam Hussein was gone, was being responsible for a system that they inherited in a broken condition.
So I guess it -- there are a number of reasons to take issue with the propositions that you just put forth. At the same time, noting that, not having seen the reports, I'd want to reserve a comment about their conclusions until looking at it.
QUESTION: Hong Kong. Do you have anything on the demonstration yesterday -- oh, no -- yeah -- today?
MR. ERELI: We would note that the United States respects the right of the people of Hong Kong to express their commitment to democracy and political reform peacefully. As we've said many times, it is up to the people of Hong Kong and the Government of Hong Kong to determine the pace and scope of democratization. It is our longstanding policy to support Hong Kong's move toward electoral reform and universal suffrage, as provided for in the basic law.
Yes, a follow-up? Do you have a follow up?
QUESTION: Yeah. I remember last year, after the first large-scale demonstration, you had a quite similar remark on that issue. And a year later, as you can see, the democracy in Hong Kong did not progress that much. Is it a concern for you? And the number of the people march on the street seems to be decreased.
MR. ERELI: What I would say to that is what I said earlier, that it is up to the people and government of Hong Kong to determine the pace and scope of democratization. That is something that they are doing and I don't have any comment beyond -- particular comment beyond that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the postponement of Afghan elections?
MR. ERELI: At this point, the Afghan Government, the United Nations, and all of us involved in Afghanistan are working toward elections proceeding consistent with the Bonn agreement. I've seen reports. I've seen those reports you're referring to but, you know, this is obviously something the Government of Afghanistan can speak to. President Karzai has made clear the importance he attaches to timely elections and we certainly support that.
I would note that preparations for elections are proceeding apace. The Afghan people are registering at the rate of 100,000 a day. There are over 5.5 million people now registered, of which 38 percent are women. So, clearly, we're seeing a level of enthusiasm and activity that I think bespeaks well of -- well of the preparations that are being taken.
QUESTION: But also, President Karzai also asked for NATO to send troops before the election because he said the security situation is such that he doesn't know if an election, if a free and fair election would be able to take place by then if he didn't get the troops. It looks like he didn't get the troops earlier. So do you think that the security situation -- and he also said that he's -- even with the registers that you've had --
MR. ERELI: Who's this?
QUESTION: President Karzai. That even with the people that have registered, other people are afraid to because of the security situation. So do you think that the security situation is such that elections would not be possible until there is the extra troops on the ground for an appropriate amount of time?
MR. ERELI: You know, I'm not prepared to speak to the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. I think, clearly, what came out of Istanbul was a NATO commitment to provide assistance in the run-up to the elections. That's important, that's welcome and it's timely. And that was the consensus view of the Istanbul summit.
Second of all, the Government of Afghanistan, President Karzai, are the ones responsible for the election process. They've indicated that they want the elections to be held in late September. I haven't seen any change from them in that and that's what we're continuing to work toward.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the reasons for raising the reward on Abu Zarqawi's head?
MR. ERELI: Sure. The basic reason is because we believe that increasing the reward from 10 million to 25 million will encourage people to come forward with information that will help locate Mr. Zarqawi. I'd note that under this program worldwide, we've paid more than $56 million to people who have provided information, and that in Iraq the Department has paid 3 million to people who have provided information on Iraqi insurgents.
So, it's a program that works. Zarqawi, obviously, is a figure who has committed horrible crimes and continues to do what he can to attack Americans and frustrate the course of democracy in Iraq. And we believe that it's in the interest of everyone, including the interest of justice, to capture him. So, that's what's behind the increase in the reward.
QUESTION: But do you really think there's a difference for people between 10 and $25 million? It's such an inconceivable sum of money. Why would they do it for 25 if they wouldn't do it for 10?
MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way. Past experience has indicated that large rewards can produce results.
QUESTION: But you have seen benefits when you've doubled it like that?
MR. ERELI: I don't know if there's a direct correlation between doubling, but I would say that --
QUESTION: Right, increasing.
MR. ERELI: That --
QUESTION: Money talks?
MR. ERELI: It can be persuasive.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Wang Bingzhang, the United States permanent resident jailed in China? I think his sister said he couldn't walk now.
MR. ERELI: Yes. Mr. Wang Bingzhang is a legal permanent resident of the United States. He has been imprisoned since December 2002. We are aware of reports that he suffered a stroke while in prison and is very ill. We are in contact with his family, who have not been allowed to visit him since January of this year.
We have registered and will continue to register our deep concerns over Mr. Wang's case with the Chinese authorities and we urge China to ensure that Mr. Wang receives proper medical care and that his rights under Chinese law are fully respected.
QUESTION: A question on Syria.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was a report -- I'm sorry.
MR. ERELI: Let's go back here, because you've been waiting for a long time. Sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.
MR. ERELI: You're welcome.
QUESTION: Mr. Jenkins, the U.S. Army deserter living in North Korea, has agreed to meet his family in Indonesia sometime soon, maybe this month. Because Indonesia doesn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S., this has been arranged among the governments of Japan and North Korea and Indonesia.
I'm wondering if the U.S. has been involved at all and are you going to take any action. And if possible, what was discussed in the bilateral meetings that Secretary Powell had with Japan and Indonesia, on this topic, I mean?
MR. ERELI: Our views on this issue have not changed. Mr. Jenkins is a deserter, which is a very serious crime. It is our view that should circumstances permit, he should be placed in U.S. custody for adjudication of the crimes for which he's accused.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes -- no, I'm sorry, we'll stay on this.
QUESTION: Okay. About Japan. I have two questions about the news that the U.S. and Japan initiated diplomatic exchange with State Secretary Powell and the Japanese Foreign Minister agreed today. And number one, could you explain the detail of the program, like the size of exchange or time span or what they are going to do? And number two, it is that this kind of annual diplomatic exchange is the first time in Asia, so which other countries, except for Asia, that the U.S. has this kind of program?
MR. ERELI: Yes. We put out a statement on this today. I think that's a level of detail I don't have with me. Let me ask the responsible office and get an answer back for you on those two questions.
MR. ERELI: Syria.
QUESTION: There is a report suggesting that the American Ambassador to Syria, Margaret Scobey, is breaking away with tradition for the 4th of July holiday. She's not taking any photo ops, or giving speeches, and so on. Could you confirm that to us and/or explain it, if that's true?
MR. ERELI: (Laughter.) I haven't seen those reports. I don't know what the facts of the matter are. There -- different embassies mark the 4th of July differently, depending on local circumstances and resources. There is no set protocol for this kind of event. I don't know what the embassy in Syria, specifically, is planning for this July 4th, but I'm confident that the ceremony will be marked in a way that is appropriate and respectful.
Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: Do you expect a meeting -- Mr. Powell's meeting with Mr. Paek Nam-sun in Jakarta before the ARF ends?
MR. ERELI: I would refer you to the party, the Secretary's party, for details on his schedule. I just -- that's something that's constantly shifting. They're down now for the night. I'm not -- I don't have the latest on their decisions for tomorrow. So I'd just refer you to Jakarta for that kind of information.
QUESTION: One more on China. I guess it's no more news for you that there is divided opinion within the high-ranking officials in China that they have different -- in regard of number of issues, including the democracy of Hong Kong, including, on top of that, how to handle -- how to end the persecution of Falun Gong, and recently, the shooting of Australian Falun Gong practitioners in South Africa seems that they escalated the persecution of it overseas, even outside of China now. Is it some kind of concern of you, or do you have anything on this?
MR. ERELI: I think our position on this issue is well-known and oft-stated. And there's -- I don't really have anything new to say. The importance of this issue is documented in our annual report on human rights and is a subject of bilateral dialogue, but I don't have anything more or new to say on it than that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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