Find a Security Clearance Job!


26 July 2004

State Department Noon Briefing, July 26

Iraq, China, Middle East, Greece, Bangladesh, terrorism, Sudan, Azerbaijan, Macedonia

State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed reporters July 26.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, July 26, 2004
1:16 p.m. EDT

BRIEFER: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Members of the Mujahedin e-Khalq in Ashraf
-- Status of Mujahedin e-Khalq as a Foreign Terrorist Organization
-- Withdrawal of Philippine Troops
-- Joint U.S.-Iraqi Efforts to Obtain Release of Hostages
-- Iraq's Relations with Israel
-- Infiltration of Foreign Fighters from Syria

-- Mistreatment of Chinese Citizen as U.S.-Canada Border

-- Secretary Powell's Travel to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

-- Olympic Security

-- Humanitarian Assistance

-- 9/11 Commission

-- Humanitarian and Diplomatic Efforts
-- Secretary Powell's Consultations with African and Other Leaders
-- Obligation of Sudanese Government to Protect Darfuris

-- Ambassador Mann's Consultations on Nagorno-Karabakh and Energy

-- Unrest in Struga
-- Ohrid Agreement


MONDAY, JULY 26, 2004

1:16 p.m. EDT

MR. ERELI: Welcome to our briefing. For those of you who aren't flying to points east, I don't have any announcements and would be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Adam, do you know anything about the people's Mujahedin claiming to -- this might be better addressed to the Pentagon -- but claiming to have received protected status as non-combatants in Iraq. They said this on Sunday, apparently.

MR. ERELI: I do have something on that. I believe the U.S. military has confirmed that protected person status has been -- or that the 3,800 members of the MEK that are in Ashraf have been granted protected person status. I would note that this means that an individual who enjoys protected person status is entitled to protections of the Geneva Conventions. There aren't any other connotations to this designation. It's a designation, another important point to make here, it's a designation that applies to individuals and not to groups.

Moving on to the -- but I think the bigger picture is -- and in that sense, there's not a lot of change -- is that the MEK members remain as before limited to Camp Ashraf under multinational force control. The multinational force continues to ensure that the -- that the members of these groups cannot post a threat to individuals inside or outside Iraq. We are working with the international -- with the government of Iraq and international organizations to look at eventual repatriation of these individuals.

QUESTION: Well, I'm not -- I don't understand -- how does this square with the terrorism designation?

MR. ERELI: It's really unrelated to it. It's unrelated to it.

QUESTION: I mean, presumably, if these --

MR. ERELI: The point here is --

QUESTION: Well, presumably, if these people are -- this group is designated as a terrorist organization, that means that its members are, in U.S. eyes, terrorists, correct?

MR. ERELI: Let me -- let me clarify the distinction for you.

QUESTION: And if they are, why are they given -- why have they been given this status, considering that other terrorists have been treated (inaudible) much differently, as enemy noncombatants.

MR. ERELI: This status -- right. This status does not -- their status as protected persons relates to their involvement in an activity as belligerents in the conflict between the coalition and Iraq. So it was determined that they were not belligerents and therefore, as nonbelligerents, fall into this category with respect to the conflict with Iraq.

This does not relate to their membership in a terrorist organization. The MEK continues to be a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. We will continue to treat its -- treat individuals who can be determined to have been involved in terrorist incidents with the MEK consistent with the laws that apply. And in the case of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf, as you know, there was a vetting process underway to determine who, among those 3,800, might have been involved in terrorist incidents, and once those individuals have been determined, to deal with them as required by law.

So in that sense there's no -- how shall I say? There should be no conflict or confusion between the two issues.

QUESTION: All right. Well, maybe my memory is faulty but I don't -- was the MEK -- were members of the MEK actual belligerents in the war?

MR. ERELI: No, and that's what -- that's what this designation --

QUESTION: So this relates to their status as nonbelligerents?

MR. ERELI: Right. This is what this designation refers to.

QUESTION: When you talk about repatriation, are you trying to get them to go back to Iran?

MR. ERELI: That issue is still being worked on, where they would go is something that has to be settled between the government of Iraq, the MNF and eventual countries of resettlement. But, of course, it has to be voluntary, as consistent with international practice.

QUESTION: And when you're doing the vetting, are you vetting to see which of the people in Ashraf actually belongs to the Mujahedin, or are you just trying to vet what type of crime they have committed as the terrorists that you recognize they are?

MR. ERELI: My understanding is it's the latter.

QUESTION: And Iran says that the fact that you're giving these individuals protected status undermines your claim that you're fighting terrorism because it brings up a bit of contradictions that Matt was --

MR. ERELI: Right, and I tried to clarify those contradictions as saying protected status does not mean we are protecting these people. It means we are according them -- we have determined that they were not belligerents in this conflict, and we are according them the human rights protections as required by the Geneva -- consistent with the Geneva Conventions. When persons are -- when individuals are classified as protected persons, it does not in any way attenuate our actions and holding these people to account for activities that they committed as MEK members that were terrorist in nature.

QUESTION: While we're on Iraq, the President of the Philippines -- has this come up yet?


QUESTION: Could we just continue on that for a moment?

QUESTION: Sure, go ahead, please. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: How are their camps and how are they supervised? Are they under any kind of supervision? Is it an Iraqi supervision or a coalition supervision? That's one. And how does that relate in any way to what the Iraqi interim minister, in an interview, he said that Iran was enemy number one. So are the two related?

MR. ERELI: For logistical details on how the Camp Ashraf is run and what are the -- what are the procedures and limitations of movement and things like that, I'd refer you to the multinational force. The important point is that, a) they're disarmed; b) they are not, as I said earlier, that they are not in a position to pose a threat to individuals inside or outside Iraq. And that's the critical consideration in our view.

QUESTION: When you say disarmed are they still allowed to have rifles?

MR. ERELI: They are -- they do not pose a threat due to arms, I think is the --

QUESTION: So the tanks and stuff are in another place, but they still have firearms?

MR. ERELI: I think they've been disarmed to the extent that they cannot pose a threat. But if you ask me what -- do they have any caliber bullets, again, I'd refer you to the MNF.

QUESTION: The President of the Philippines, in a new speech, a state of the union or something, again speaking very positively about her decision on the kidnapped Philippine -- Filipino truck driver. The list of hostages grows longer and I don't know how anybody could prove the case or disprove the case, but does the State Department see a correlation? Is it contagious? Is there a contagion going on here where hostage-takers feel more emboldened to exert their demands by taking people?

MR. ERELI: I don't know -- I mean, I can't say that we have empirical evidence that says, you know, Country A did this and, as a result, terrorists did that. Our view is clear that it does not serve the interests of those fighting terrorism to negotiate with terrorists. There does continue to be kidnappings in Iraq. I think Prime Minister Allawi has been very forceful and outspoken that this is a scourge that will be confronted and defeated. We -- obviously, we, the Embassy and the MNF are working closely with the Iraqis to try to resolve peacefully and bring home safely those individuals who have been kidnapped and, you know, we continue to make the point that the best way to do that is to stand firm in the face of terror.

QUESTION: While we're talking about the outspoken Prime Minister, he, in outspoken fashion, has said that Iraq will have nothing to do with Israel until -- there are about three conditions, which basically mean an overall settlement and lots of other things. I know every country's decisions on who to have relations with is the country's, but as somebody you nurtured, as a government you're nurturing, is that something you have an opinion on?

MR. ERELI: I don't have any comment.

QUESTION: Would you rather that Iraq -- you wanted Iraq -- the U.S. Government wanted, hoped and wished that Iraq would have a normal relationship with all countries in the region. I think Israel is still there, last I checked. Does that exclude Israel? Does the State Department just mean a good relationship with all the Arab countries in the region and maybe Iran?

MR. ERELI: I think it's up to Iraq and the government of Iraq to determine how best to move forward in its diplomatic relations and we'll leave it to them to do that.


QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? The Iraqi government removed the stamp today that allowed -- did not allow their citizen to travel to Israel. Was that done in cooperation and consultancy with the U.S. Government? Were they encouraged to do that?

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that there was any communication on the issue. Again, this is a sovereign Iraqi decision. They're in charge of their relations with other states. I don't believe there was any -- I don't believe we had any involvement, but let me check and see.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the Philippines, and I know this probably, while I was gone you had -- you or Ambassador Boucher offered a lot of "no comments" on it. But since you've said that it does not serve the interests of those fighting terrorism to negotiate with terrorists, how does the Philippines now rate as an ally in the war on terrorism, or has it not -- is it still up there?

MR. ERELI: The Philippines was and remains a close ally of the United States. That does not mean that allies can't have their differences. And the fact of the matter is being allies means that we share common interests, we share common values, and we have the kind of relationship that makes it possible to speak openly and frankly about those issues where we don't agree.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is a country which has its own domestic, homegrown problems with terrorism, as well as with JI and has been, you know, rewarded significantly by the United States for its cooperation prior to this, which was made a Major Non-NATO Ally. Does that not have -- does this decision by the President not have any effect on how you view Manila?

MR. ERELI: I think that this is a decision that the Philippine Government made and the Philippine Government has spoken to the reasons why it made this decision. I don't have any basis to conclude that it affects other aspects of the Philippines' participation and commitment to fighting terrorism in the Philippines or elsewhere.

QUESTION: How long will the ambassador's vacation last, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines?

MR. ERELI: He returned to Washington for consultations and for some personal leave time. I don't have a specific time period for you.

QUESTION: Would it be like two weeks? Three weeks?

MR. ERELI: Couldn't tell you.

QUESTION: Is he back to talk about the Philippines --


QUESTION: -- or Iraq or both?

MR. ERELI: He returned to discuss --

QUESTION: -- with his expertise.

MR. ERELI: -- his -- he returned in his capacity as Ambassador to the Philippines to talk about his responsibilities and bilateral relations.


MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Well, no, it's something else.

MR. ERELI: Are we still on the Philippines? Iraq?


MR. ERELI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I'm just trying to get your reaction to the strides that Mr. Allawi has made during -- over the weekend with his contacts with the Arab governments. He seems to have made good steps in bringing the other Arabs to help pick Iraq; and in particular, in Syria he was able to make real giant steps with the Syrian Government in coming to a strategic, economic and -- oh -- around the bilateral relations with Syria. And the Syrian Prime Minister, while Mr. Allawi was beside him, he said that Syria is not going to deny -- or not deny -- or admit those infiltrators but Syria says that Syria opposes an infiltration of any militants across the borders. What is your evaluation of Mr. Allawi's accomplishments in his recent trips?

MR. ERELI: I don't really have too much of a comment on President Allawi's travels. I'll leave the Iraqi Prime Minister to speak for himself about what he sees as -- or to comment for himself on his trips and his discussions with foreign leaders. Obviously, as we've said before, we welcome and support and encourage Iraq's reintegration into the region. It certainly -- certainly -- is that -- the fact that that reintegration is taking place is, I think, clearly demonstrated by the warm reception which Prime Minister Allawi has received. And so to that extent, it's something worth noting and worth praising.

As far as the infiltration of foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq, that continues to be a problem. Prime Minister Allawi has spoken about it. Our military has spoken about it. There have been some steps taken but much more needs to be done, and that is something we and the Iraqis and others who support the future peace and stability in Iraq look to Syria to take action on.

QUESTION: He met with the top intelligence officers privately and he and the Syrian officials have talked about the efforts, the joint efforts, that they're going to start making together, you know, taking together -- Iraqis, Syrians -- in order to stop that infiltration. Aren't you willing to even admit that there is a good -- that it is a good step that the two countries are, you know, they have come to this point and there is a goodwill on the Syrian part?

MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way: As I said before, it is laudable that Iraq is being received and accepted by the countries of the region. As far as Syrian steps to limit infiltration from Syria into Iraq, actions speak louder than words.

QUESTION: Back to something. I don't want to miss a step if there is a step for you to tell us about. The Chinese tourist who claims to have been beaten by a Homeland Security -- ? It's in the courts. I mean, it's in the justice system. Is there something else that has happened since, you know, the proceedings was -- you know, because the Chinese Foreign Minister is supposed to have called Secretary Powell and now there is action being taken. Is that where it is?

MR. ERELI: That is where it is. Secretary Powell spoke with the Foreign Minister of China, Li Zhaoxing, over the weekend concerning the beating of a Chinese citizen at the U.S.-Canadian border. The Department of Homeland Security is investigating the matter. We look forward to getting to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Do you know what day that call was?

MR. ERELI: It was yesterday, on Sunday.

Yes, Nadia.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. ERELI: China?

QUESTION: Yes. Could you elaborate a little more on the conversation? Did they talk about -- the Chinese required to the responsible officials, if found guilty, should be punished. Did you agree on the terms or you wait for the --

MR. ERELI: We basically endeavored to conduct an investigation and find out what happened.

QUESTION: So later on, if we follow up on this case, we come here? I mean, the Chinese reporter can come here with the Homeland Security --

MR. ERELI: This is -- as I said, this is an investigation being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, so for information about the investigation I'd refer you to them.

QUESTION: The Secretary's visit the Middle East, if he is going to discuss the Sharon plan and the situation in the Palestinian areas, why he is not visiting there? I mean, he opted to discuss it through the neighbors rather than being there himself.

MR. ERELI: There are a number of issues the Secretary is going to discuss. Visiting -- you have -- when you decide where to go, you have time constraints. You have to decide, you know, what are the issues you want to discuss, what is the time you have to discuss it and who have you seen and talked to, who do you need to see and talk to. And it was felt that these stops make the most sense given the issues we need to deal with and who we need to deal with them on.

So I think that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are -- you know, we have important messages, important business to deal with those countries, and the decisions were made for that reason.

QUESTION: So what's the major -- I mean, what's the main topics that he's going to discuss with these countries?

MR. ERELI: Well, we put that out in our Notice to the Press on Friday what the main issues were: the situation in Iraq, continuing global war on terror, obviously the Palestinian-Israeli issues, the Sharon plan, as well as other important bilateral issues; reform in the region; that's obviously a critical issue for the region and a very important part of our diplomacy, and that will also be a subject of discussion.

QUESTION: Is that schedule open in any way for additions, should they come to mind? Is it frozen in concrete or --

MR. ERELI: It's -- there are always changes to schedules but I don't have any -- any basis to tell you that it will happen or it won't happen.

QUESTION: What is the likelihood that the Secretary might meet some Palestinian officials in Egypt?

MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to the party.

In the back. Let's go in the back.

QUESTION: On the Olympics, Mr. Ereli. According to New York Times, American and British officials are trying in the recent days to penetrate the Muslim and Arab communities in Athens to locate terrorists. I am wondering when decided that terrorists should be Muslims or Arab is not Christians or other religions or nationalities.

Could you please comment?

MR. ERELI: I am not going to comment on a report I haven't read citing sources that I know nothing about on issues which we generally don't comment on anyway.

QUESTION: You didn't read the report today in New York Times?

MR. ERELI: No, I did not.

QUESTION: That's -- wow, that was a -- that's a pretty -- that's classic (inaudible). (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you please comment on the severity of flood in Bangladesh? And would you be kind enough to take this question?

MR. ERELI: We did take the question last week and we answered it last week when we -- in responding to aid that we are providing to Bangladesh to help them deal with the tragic suffering as a result of the flooding. We are working with the Government of Bangladesh to provide assistance to the victims of that disaster. And for the specifics, I'd refer you to the question that we posted last week.

QUESTION: Have there been any specific requests from the Government of Bangladesh to aid the flood victims?

MR. ERELI: Let me see if I have something for you on it. I'll get back to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On the same issue, are you going to cooperate with the European Union to give a hand to help this tragedy in Bangladesh, as you should?

MR. ERELI: It's not a question of cooperating with the European Union or others. It's a question of taking action to help people in need and we've already begun doing that.

QUESTION: Like in Haiti the other day?

MR. ERELI: I would say we approach every crisis on its merits, not with respect to other crises.

Yes, Adi.

QUESTION: In reference to the 9/11 Commission, their -- some of their suggestions, according to some people, could be acted on by the Bush Administration without any sort of guidance from Congress, which is to say they could act on these suggestions merely through Executive Order. And there is also talk that the Bush Administration could act upon these suggestions by the end of this week; they're just floating around.

So my question to you is this: Has the State Department issued any guidance, any sort of suggestions to the White House on what could be implemented right away through Executive Order?

MR. ERELI: Not that I'm aware of. This is a process that -- this is a process that is being handled by the White House, and obviously it's an -- there's an interagency dimension to it. But for comment about what's being looked at and where things stand in the process, I'd refer you to the White House.

QUESTION: And a follow-up, if I may. It was made clear on Friday that the interagency meeting would take place today. Were there any plans by the Secretary to maybe delay his trip? I know he left early this morning at 7:30 for Hungary. Were there any plans to delay that trip and have him participate in this critical meeting via videoconference, instead of his number two?

MR. ERELI: No, there were no plans that I'm aware of, and the number two is fully empowered and fully capable of doing everything that needs to be done.

QUESTION: Will the Secretary take up with the Saudis the criticism the commission leveled against the way the State Department has dealt with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

MR. ERELI: I couldn't tell you. I'd refer you to the party.

QUESTION: Well, you don't know if he is going to take it up? You don't --

MR. ERELI: I don't know if he's going to take it up.


QUESTION: Change the subject, onto to Sudan. Britain and Australia said that they could make troops available for Darfur, and that the Congress here has urged the Administration to seek a foreign force. So how seriously is the U.S. considering the option of foreign troops to protect Darfuris?

MR. ERELI: Our focus -- I mean, obviously, we want to do everything possible to get the security problem under control, provide humanitarian assistance to people in need, and most importantly, get the people in camps back to their homes. That is -- that's the priority for us; that's the goal. Our focus now is on working with the international community on a number of initiatives that are currently underway and try to bring about positive results from those initiatives.

What are we doing? We're working -- we're in diplomatic high gear at the United Nations to discuss a resolution, calling for -- calling on the Government of Sudan to take real action to stop the violence, an arms embargo on the Jingaweit, arresting Jingaweit leaders, and reporting on their fulfillment of those commitments.

We are looking to move that resolution forward and the Secretary has been talking to his Security Council colleagues over the weekend and today. We are working with the African Union on a number of fronts: a) to have African Union monitors in Darfur to monitor the ceasefire and acts of violence; b) to get a protection, African Union protection force, to support those monitors; and c) to restart talks between the rebels and the government in order to bring about a political solution to this conflict.

And then finally, on the humanitarian side, we are doing everything possible we can to ensure that this humanitarian assistance gets to the people in need and that countries who have made pledges to help the people of Sudan fulfill those pledges.

So it is a -- it is a intense campaign over a number of fronts designed to get the Sudanese Government to exercise its responsibility to protect its people and to provide them security and to allow the international community to help those in need. Let's -- as I said, our focus is on moving those initiatives forward and that's where we are at the moment.

QUESTION: So the only one of those initiatives that involves troops is the African Union. Now, when you say "get an African Union protection force that will support the monitors," is that just to protect the monitors?

MR. ERELI: Yes, that was the original proposal.

QUESTION: So there are no -- in none of these initiatives you're seriously considering having any troops go into Darfur to protect the Darfuris?

MR. ERELI: That, at this point, is the role of the Sudanese Government and the Sudanese Government, I would point out, has committed to doing that. So if you have the Government of Sudan on record with the Secretary of State and with the Secretary General of the United Nations saying that it is going to use its forces to protect its people, then I think it's incumbent upon them to follow through on those commitments and uphold their responsibilities, and let's hold them to their word first.

QUESTION: Adam, isn't this the same government which has used its army to bomb its own people repeatedly in spite of -- in spite of your protests in the past, in the south and in the west?

MR. ERELI: There have been -- there have been atrocities before. The government has said that they will take these actions. We look for -- or we look to them to fulfill those commitments.

QUESTION: So your patience is basically unlimited?

MR. ERELI: I would not say our patience is unlimited. I would say we are moving resolutely in the UN to back up our -- to put the "verify" in the "trust" part, to back up our acceptance of their commitments with international mechanisms, to verify those commitments and to, if they're not fulfilled, hold them to account.

QUESTION: But for --

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question?

MR. ERELI: On Sudan?

QUESTION: Yeah, well, I understand the Secretary talked to the Chinese Foreign Minister --

MR. ERELI: No, let's stick with Sudan.

QUESTION: Well, I think she's going to ask (inaudible).

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: They were talking about Sudan and the Secretary was asking something from the Chinese Government to help on the Sudan situation. Do you know any detail?

MR. ERELI: The Secretary, in his conversation with Foreign Minister Li, did discuss the situation in Sudan. We shared our view of what -- you know, what our assessment of the situation, and look forward to a good discussion at the UN on the draft resolution.

QUESTION: Can you also talk about Musharraf?

MR. ERELI: The Secretary also spoke with, since I was asked, Pakistani President Musharraf today. Again, they discussed -- I think President Musharraf had had contacts with the Sudanese. The Secretary spoke about his meetings with the Secretary General on Friday -- or Thursday in New York; our assessment, again, of where things stood in Sudan. They exchanged their views of the situation and again spoke of the importance of moving forward in the Security Council.

QUESTION: Would you mind, then, telling us which other members of the Security Council the Secretary spoke to over the weekend and today?

MR. ERELI: On Saturday, the Secretary spoke with Pakistani President Musharraf, spoke with Secretary General Annan --

QUESTION: Wait a minute. On Saturday?

MR. ERELI: And today -- and the Foreign Minister of Germany, Joschka Fischer.

On Sunday, the Secretary spoke with French Foreign Minister Barnier, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Li. And today he's spoken with President Musharraf.

QUESTION: And all of those calls, in one way or another, have involved Sudan?

MR. ERELI: Yes, mm-hmm.


MR. ERELI: Continue?

QUESTION: To go back to what you were saying about it's all incumbent on the Sudanese Government, you have so often said we need their action, not their words. We have heard it so often because it's been going on so long. What do you now say to the criticism that you're pursuing a tactic that's relying on them, knowing that they haven't followed through on any of the commitments they've given you; or, if they have, it's been very begrudging and, at the same time, while that's a very, very slow process, you've got lots of people dying. Why not change your tactic and say we can't rely on the government, we've got to get troops in there?

MR. ERELI: Because we're not at that point yet, simply put. The fact is that it's been a few weeks since the Secretary was in Khartoum and visited Darfur. The Sudanese Government has taken some actions to facilitate humanitarian access. Those actions are important but they are not sufficient. There continue to be problems.

Marshalling international action takes time, but it is important and critical to making progress, and I would say that we believe that where we are now is appropriate.

As far as taking action to protect those at risk, that is where a lot of our humanitarian focus remains. We've been airlifting -- we in the international community have been airlifting -- have been airlifting humanitarian supplies into Afghanistan -- sorry, into Sudan for some time. There is -- there are good supplies of food in Sudan; it's a question of getting them delivered.

And so you've got a two-pronged approach, really: You've got, get humanitarian assistance to at least keep people alive, those who are at risk, and; also, get the security situation under control because, unless it gets under control, there's no long-term solution to this problem.

But, frankly, there's -- so there's no -- there's no quick fix absent the Government of Sudan deciding that it wants to help fix the problem.

QUESTION: Adam, will the Secretary discuss this with the Egyptian officials that he's likely to meet? And if not, why not, considering the long history of Egypt and Sudan?

MR. ERELI: It has been a subject of discussion with the Egyptians in the past and it may well be a subject of discussion this time. It is something that the Egyptians have been -- it's an issue that the Egyptians are concerned about and have been working with the Sudanese to help address. But I don't want to predict what definitely will or won't come up in a meeting.

Miss, in the back, you've had a question.

QUESTION: On a different subject?

MR. ERELI: Sudan still?



QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the genocide determination?


You know, you had your question --

QUESTION: I just was asking about the Sudan, actually.

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Last week, Secretary General Annan lamented the fact that the international community had not done more to help the people of Darfur; specifically, he said that they don't even have six helicopters, which are necessary to move humanitarian equipment and food into Darfur. And he also said the international community should have done more to raise funds for humanitarian aspects to the relief mission. I think he said they were something like $200 million short.

Now, I realize that the United States has provided the vast majority of said funds for relief in Darfur, but are there any plans to offer even more money at this time to make up for the shortfall from the other members of the international community? And are there any plans to provide the helicopters which Mr. Annan said are needed?

MR. ERELI: As far as aid shortfalls go, the focus is on getting those who have pledged to fulfill their pledges and that -- that, we think, is the way to go. We certainly, I think, have anted up more than our fair share and obviously as this -- you know, as the situation evolves we'll continue to look at what the needs are. But for right now, the appropriate thing to do is to fulfill the pledges that have already been made.

As far as the helicopters go, that is -- that's an ongoing need. I think that a number of countries are responding, but it's not something that I believe we're actively looking at.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: I have a question on Caucasus. Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister of Azerbaijan was in town and I understand he had an extensive discussion at the State Department; and also he had a discussion with the American Co-Chair of the Minsk Group, Ambassador Mann. I wonder what kind of direction these discussions take in the question of Nagorno-Karabakh.

MR. ERELI: Ambassador Mann, who is our Special Negotiator for Eurasian Conflicts and the Senior Advisor for Caspian Basin Energy, met with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov, last week. They talked about a number of issues, including Nagorno-Karabakh and energy. These are obviously a part of our regular dialogue with Azerbaijan. And the -- and Ambassador Mann reiterated our support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. But beyond that, I don't have any details for you.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, on the Olympics again. Pardon. In the New York story which you didn't read, (inaudible) sovereignty, there are a bunch of detrimental statement by an American, namely Alex Rondos, R-o-n-d-o-s, who, with the previous Greek Government, was the general coordinator on counterterrorism. I am wondering if Mr. Rondos is working now in the U.S. Embassy in Athens.

MR. ERELI: I don't know. I'll check.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know how many special security agents has been sent to Athens by the Department of State? And who is going to pay those expenses?

MR. ERELI: I do not know; and if I did, I wouldn't comment on it.

QUESTION: But how do you explain that the CRS report for Congress under the title, "Greece: Threat on Terrorism Security at the Olympics," says that (inaudible) you send 150 special agents, and you are going to pay $2,763,000 now. And then how is --

MR. ERELI: That's a CRS report. It's not something that I -- that the State Department has officially confirmed.

QUESTION: It's in your budget request for last year.

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything to -- I don't have anything to add beyond what we've said on the subject.


MR. ERELI: George.

QUESTION: According to reports by Reuters News Agency today, the so-called Ohrid Agreement will make Albanian the main language in Albanian dominated areas. The plan is going to bring Struga on Lake Ohrid under Albania control with Albanian political leaders in charge. Opponents say it will ultimately divide the country in two and Skopje will become a bilingual city with street signs and official documents in both language. What is the U.S. position on those things against the territorial integrity --

MR. ERELI: This is a what? Excuse me. This is an issue between who and who?

QUESTION: An issue between the Albanians and the so-called Macedonians in FYROM.

MR. ERELI: Okay. I'll leave it to those parties to comment on this issue.

QUESTION: But what is the U.S. policy vis-à-vis to the Ohrid Agreement?

MR. ERELI: To which agreement?

QUESTION: Ohrid Agreement, O-h-r-i-d.

MR. ERELI: If we have a policy towards the Ohrid Agreement, I will endeavor to find out what it is and communicate it to you.

QUESTION: Well, you should because you were partners in it.

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Indonesian elections, if you have any comment on the results?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you at this point.

QUESTION: And one other one, last week you lifted, you announced the lifting of some sanctions or some bar against some South African -- ITAR sanctions against South African arms defense companies.

MR. ERELI: Was this in the Federal Register?

QUESTION: It was last week, yeah. But there's another one in today and I'm just wondering if -- was this one mistakenly omitted from last week --

MR. ERELI: I'll check.

QUESTION: -- or what's the reason for it?

Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Sure.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

Join the mailing list