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29 July 2004

State Department Noon Briefing, July 29

Powell's travels to Greenland/Bosnia/Poland, Iraq, Sudan, Mexico, Iran, China, Kosovo, Greece

State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the press July 29.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, July 29, 2004
1:00 p.m. EDT

BRIEFER: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Secretary Powell's Travel to Greenland/Signing of Defense Accord & Cooperation Declarations
-- Secretary Powell's Travel to Bosnia/Euro-Atlantic Integration Discussions
-- Secretary Powell's Travel to Poland/60th Anniversary of Warsaw Uprising

-- Saudi Proposal to Create a Muslim Peacekeeping Force in Iraq
-- Decisions Regarding the Presence of Foreign Forces on Iraqi Territory
-- Iraqi Decision to Delay the National Conference/U.S. View
-- Progress in Formation of Government/Active Leadership

-- Tabling of UN Security Council Resolution on Sudan/Consultations
-- Situation in Darfur/Responsibility for Humanitarian Crisis
-- Authority for Imposing Sanctions/Article 41 Definition of "Measures"
-- 30-Day Progress Report & Review/Consideration of Sanctions

-- Query Regarding State Department Position on Travel to Cancun

-- Concerns Regarding Iran's Continuing Activity on Nuclear Program/Discussions
-- Issues for September Board of Governor's Meeting

-- Query Regarding Letter from Secretary Powell to Chinese Foreign Minister

-- U.S. Concerns About Violence/Efforts to Ensure the Situation Is Addressed

-- Query Regarding the Presence of Ambassador Burns & NATO at Olympic Games



1:00 p.m. EDT

MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everybody. For those of you who are sweating it out in Washington, I'd just point out that we -- the party put out a Notice to the Press on the road, so you can get your winter coats for a trip to Greenland on August 6th.

I would also remind you that over the weekend the Secretary will be going to Bosnia, where he will meet officials to talk about security and stability and engagement in Euro-Atlantic integration and he'll be going on from there to lead our, the U.S. delegation, to the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, which will commemorate the courageous Polish Partisans, who rose up against Nazi oppression.

And that's all I have to say at the beginning.

QUESTION: He's going to be at what ceremony?

MR. ERELI: The ceremony --

QUESTION: There are two memorials: one is so-called Polish Partisans, there may have been a handful of them; and the other is the Jewish ghetto uprising. Which event is he going to commemorate?

MR. ERELI: He is going to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, which is --

QUESTION: Warsaw ghetto uprising.

MR. ERELI: No, the Warsaw Uprising.

QUESTION: That's different.

MR. ERELI: Not the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the Warsaw Uprising.

QUESTION: It's all been announced before. Why are you doing it again?

MR. ERELI: I was just trying to remind people of this important --

QUESTION: Then the first time it was announced, wasn't it mistakenly announced as the Warsaw ghetto uprising?

MR. ERELI: I think that announcement was retracted, but just wanted to make sure that everybody -- everybody had it right.

QUESTION: I didn't know that.

MR. ERELI: And I would also refer you to the White House statement of the official delegation, which was put out earlier this week.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you want to go on to other things?

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the Greenland trip? Why is he going?

MR. ERELI: Secretary Powell will go to Greenland to sign with his Danish colleague, Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller and the Deputy Premier of Greenland Josef Motzfeldt, an accord that modernizes the 1951 Defense of Greenland Agreement. They will also sign declarations that establish a new framework for fostering broader economic and technical and environmental cooperation between the United States and Greenland.

I would also note that these agreements will pave the way for an upgrade of radar facilities at Thule Air Base, which supports the U.S. missile defense program.

QUESTION: Is it correct, Adam, that the Danes extracted from you guys these revisions to the '51 treaty in order to overcome their concerns about missile defense and use of the airbase?

MR. ERELI: I hadn't heard that. So I think I don't have any basis on which to make a comment.

QUESTION: Can we go to the preliminary consideration being given to a Muslim force to supplement the peacekeeping forces in Iraq?

In London, an Arab League official said, "any such force would only be acceptable if ordered by the UN Security Council and linked to a specific timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq."

How does the State Department feel about those conditions?

MR. ERELI: First of all, let me reiterate what the Secretary said in Saudi Arabia today and what Assistant Secretary Boucher said in comments to the press yesterday, that this is a Saudi proposal, it's a Saudi initiative. The Saudis are working it with the Iraqis and with other concerned states. It's a proposal that we welcome. We believe that it is complimentary to ongoing UN and Iraqi government efforts. Iraq's Prime Minister, Mr. Allawi, made it clear in his remarks with the Secretary in Jeddah that his government looks forward to troop contributions from Arab and Muslim states.

I would -- you know, in terms of discussing the kinds of details that the comments you referred to, Barry, talk about, I would simply say, look, these are preliminary ideas. We're at an early stage in this. A lot of questions remain to be answered regarding size, structure, mandate, command and control. This is something that will be the subject of discussions over the next several weeks. For our part, we're taking the proposal seriously and we're looking at ways that we can work with all the parties to respond positively.

QUESTION: The Arab League statement isn't attached to any specific difficult or delicate or obscure detail and we all know it's in the preliminary stage. They're saying, "any such force can only be acceptable if ordered by the UN Security Council and linked to a specific timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq." Even though for your own good political reasons you are having the Saudis and the Iraqis up front on this, instead of the U.S., what they're saying deals specifically with the U.S., the Arab League. They say a timetable for U.S. forces. Presumably, the United States remains in control of its own forces.

Is the U.S. prepared to withdraw its troops from Iraq in order to have Muslim countries contribute to peacekeeping operations there, as demanded by the Arab League?

MR. ERELI: Let me make two points. The presence of foreign forces on Iraqi territory is, first and foremost, a matter for Iraqi -- the Iraqi government to decide, and that is a mark of Iraqi sovereignty and that is the basis under which the multinational force is there.

Point number two, the issue of a mandate for foreign troops going into Iraq has been a subject of discussion for some time. It was something that the international community asked for prior to the transfer of sovereignty. It was something we thought existed under 1511, but it was made even more explicit under Security Council Resolution 1546. So the mandate in our view exists, but as I said, this is first and foremost a decision and the responsibility and the purview of the government of Iraq.

QUESTION: All right. You've certainly dealt with the first of the two conditions quite squarely and we know Iraq is in charge of Iraq, but would you want the State Department to be understood as saying if Iraq decides to have U.S. forces leave for the sake of getting Muslim countries to send forces there, the U.S. would go along with that?

MR. ERELI: That's --

QUESTION: You seem to be saying that.

MR. ERELI: That's a hypothetical that I think is kind of far-fetched, but it's certainly not one that I'm prepared to deal with now.


QUESTION: I presume that you don't have a whole lot to add to what Senator Danforth and others up in New York have been talking, saying about the resolution, but on the off chance that you do have something different or enlightening to tell us about the resolution, I will ask.

MR. ERELI: Assuming we wouldn't want to say anything different. I would perhaps hope to reinforce what was said in New York. As you know, Ambassador Danforth tabled the resolution on Sudan last night. We have been very pleased with the productive consultations we've had during the past few days. We think we've presented a good resolution, a strong resolution that calls upon the Government of Sudan to fulfill its commitments to protect and assist the people at risk in Darfur.

It's important to note in this discussion that the responsibility for the Darfur disaster lies squarely with the Government of Sudan, which is supporting armed attacks on its own civilian population, and that is what has created this humanitarian disaster. The Government of Sudan has failed to honor the commitments it made on July 3rd to improve the situation in Darfur: it has not deployed a police force in all the areas it needed to; it has not prevented militias from intimidating displaced persons in the camps; and it has not disarmed the Jingaweit.

This resolution takes note of those failures and it makes it clear that sanctions are on the table for consideration by the Security Council if the Government of Sudan continues to fail to live up to the commitments it's made.

QUESTION: Last week, Richard said that you hadn't presented it yet because -- or when the Secretary was going up, that you were going to strengthen the resolution. How does taking the word "sanctions" out of the resolution strengthen it, exactly?

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't focus that too much on the word "sanctions" or "measures."

QUESTION: But the Security Council obviously did.

MR. ERELI: The fact of the matter is that whether you have the word "sanctions" or "measures," the practical effect is the same. And that effect is that the Security Council will meet in a month to hear a report from the Secretary General's special representative and should they conclude that circumstances warrant, this resolution provides them the authority to impose sanctions by referring to Article 41 of the UN Charter, which is the only article in the UN Charter that actually deals with sanctions and, I would note, doesn't specifically mention the word "sanctions. " It mentions the word "measures."

So, this is a word from the UN Charter that deals with the issue of sanctions and it provides for measures short of the use of armed force, but that include -- and then it defines what sanctions are.

QUESTION: If you could explain why the members who wouldn't support the resolution with the word "sanctions" in, will support it without it, if you think it's exactly the same?

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't want to explain the position of other members. Our position is that this resolution, whether it has the word "sanctions" in it or whether it has the word "measures" in it, it gives the Security Council and gives the international community the authority to impose sanctions should they feel that that's the way to go.

QUESTION: The countries like Russia and China that oppose sanctions or have opposed sanctions, will they approve this -- if they approve this resolution, they're approving measures. They're not approving sanctions, although the Secretary and you and others have made clear that's what you mean by measures.

MR. ERELI: Well, that's what --

QUESTION: But it gives them a chance to not vote for sanctions. So the question is: would there have to be a new vote in 30 days or so explicitly approving sanctions, or do you feel -- and of course, I think she's absolutely right, this ambiguous phrase, I know you didn't pluck it out of air but you carefully avoided, the U.S. did, the word "sanctions" -- approving this resolution means that the countries who vote for this resolution are on the record voting for sanctions and another vote, is it necessary?

MR. ERELI: No, this does -- even if there had been the word "sanctions," voting for this resolution would not have been the same as voting for sanctions because the resolution says the issue of -- we will review the situation in 30 days --


MR. ERELI: -- and upon that review, if it's decided that circumstances warrant, we could consider sanctions. Whether to impose sanctions or not or whether to impose measures or not would require another vote.


MR. ERELI: So, and --

QUESTION: So there's no automatic trigger?


QUESTION: Aren't you worried that you're setting yourself up for the same thing that you did with Iraq, where you have put the language in so that -- to get people -- to get as many people on board as possible but that everyone is reading this -- everyone is reading the language of the resolution so differently that there is no way you're going to get --

MR. ERELI: Well, no, because the term "measures" is very clearly defined in the Charter, in Article 41, and I'd refer --

QUESTION: It was very -- you know, resolution, whatever it was, on Iraq was very clear. Everyone understood that one last chance meant one last chance and that if they didn't comply then there was going to be war. Now here you say the same thing. You're saying, everyone knows what this means; even though it doesn't say it, everyone knows what it means.

MR. ERELI: Well, but it does say it. I mean, in the resolution it says that it refers to Article 41, and Article 41 says that -- defines what "measures" means. It says, "Measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions and may call upon members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include" -- and it defines them -- "complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of other means of communication and the severance of diplomatic relations."

So what I'm saying is that in the resolution when you define "measures," per Article 41 of the Charter, you're being very specific about what those measures are.

QUESTION: So you're convinced that everyone on the Council understands this.

MR. ERELI: This is standard Security Council language. It is not a departure from common practice.


QUESTION: Given that all differences of opinion of the interpretation, you're very clear on yours, are you not concerned that the Sudanese will not receive a clear message?

Part of the reason for going to the United Nations is to send them this unified voice from the Security Council representing the international community, but by changing the word, you may be changing the nuance and they don't get the message.

MR. ERELI: We believe that the meaning of measures and the message behind this resolution is clear not only to the members of the Security Council, but also to the Government of Sudan.

QUESTION: Can I just try to be sure of one part of this situation? You may remember in one of the interviews the Secretary gave yesterday, the interviewer wisely brought up the fact that Kofi Annan had thought -- had spoken of giving the Sudanese Government three months and Powell was clear that we mean a month; and then, in fact, Annan said it a few weeks ago, so, you know, we're sort of partly there already.

Is there an agreement now that the Sudanese Government, under this resolution, would have 30 days to fulfill its commitments or be confronted with the possibility of "other measures?"

MR. ERELI: The resolution calls upon Sudan to take the steps and to fulfill the commitments it has made. It also says that the Secretary General will report to the Council on progress, on compliance by the Sudanese Government every 30 days. So the Sudanese Government knows that there's -- the Secretary General is going to do a report on whether it has fulfilled requirements of this resolution and fulfilled its commitments in 30 days. That's why I think the message is very clear.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: So what happens after the first 30-day report if the Sudanese haven't met their pledges? Are you just going to keep getting these reports every 30 days like --

MR. ERELI: I'm not going to get ahead of events. Let's see what happens in the next 30 days. Our purpose in bringing forward this resolution is to make clear to Sudan that the international community does not accept what is happening in Darfur, believes that it is incumbent upon the Sudanese Government to take action, specifies what that action is, and lays out possible consequences for not taking that action.

QUESTION: A redundant question, and I apologize for asking almost every day, but the Sudanese Government has been aware of what's afoot at the UN. Has the U.S. noticed, in the last couple of days, any improvement either in action against the Arab-led militia or in improving humanitarian supply of shipments?

MR. ERELI: Our assessment on Sudan's fulfilling its commitments has not changed. They have taken some actions to improve humanitarian assistance, but response to controlling the security situation remains wholly inadequate.


QUESTION: Can you comment about the decision announced today to postpone the conference in Iraq?

MR. ERELI: My first comment would be that this is an Iraqi decision. It was made by the government of Iraq after consultations with the United Nations. I believe the director of the conference, Dr. Fuad Masoum and the UN envoy, Mr. Benomar, spoke to the press earlier today about their reasons for delaying it. I think they've explained it very well.

Our view is that this -- the National Conference is an important event. The Iraqis are committed to making it a success. We support them and we support their engagement with the United Nations in this endeavor. We want to see the National Conference succeed. It was the view of the Iraqis that they needed, and in consultation with the UN, that they needed more time to prepare and to coordinate with the United Nations.

They've made this decision. Our understanding is it's a temporary delay and that their commitment to making the National Conference work is undiminished.

QUESTION: What does it say, though, about the ability to get a new government established? And isn't this further evidence of -- that tremendous problems over there --

MR. ERELI: Well, I wouldn't overstate -- I wouldn't overstate the issue. First of all, they've made tremendous progress in getting their government together. I would note they did it ahead of schedule, so that's the first very important point in their favor.

Second of all, since they formed the interim Iraqi government under the leadership of Prime Minister Allawi and President Yawer, they've been, I think, exceptionally active and shown great leadership in taking over the affairs of state and managing them expertly.

The third point is this is a -- this is a big undertaking. We're talking about a thousand representatives of Iraqi society, from political parties to civil society groups to tribal affiliations to religious groups, coming together in an unprecedented way. So if they decide they need two more weeks to get it done, that's certainly understandable.


QUESTION: On Mexico. Recently, the State Department was warning its citizens not to travel to Cancun for some violence. Does the State Department believe it's still being dangerous for American travelers to go to Cancun?

MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to our latest Travel Warnings or our latest notices on the consular website for what our current assessment of the situation is for tourists and for American citizens in Mexico.

QUESTION: According to the Mexican Government, they spoke to the State Department to clarify the situation and they had the promise of the State Department to remove that warning.

MR. ERELI: Right. Let me check. I don't have any information on that, but let me see if I can't get something for you.

Mr. Samir.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell said that he is planning to -- suggested that the U.S. is going to refer the Iran nuclear problem to the Security Council. Is this a final position now?

MR. ERELI: The final position will be determined when the Board of Governors meets. I think, obviously, as I said yesterday, as Secretary Powell said today, we are concerned by Iran's continuing activity at a nuclear program which we believe is for military purposes and which clearly is in violation of treaty obligations and commitments made to the international community.

This is a subject of -- that not only concerns us, but is bothersome and troubling to the other members of the Board of Governors. As you know, the EU-3 are meeting with the Iranians today to raise these issues and it will be the subject of our discussions at the next Board of Governors meeting in September. I wouldn't want to prejudge what comes out of that meeting but, obviously, things are not going, so far, the way the Board of Governors, I think, expected them to go, coming out of their previous meetings.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) update the fact that Secretary Powell sent Chinese Foreign Minister a letter. Does that implicate that -- indicate that's a serious matter now?

MR. ERELI: Which case are you talking about?

QUESTION: Mrs. -- Ms. Chao, C-h-a-o.

MR. ERELI: Let me see if I can get you an update on that investigation.

Yes, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: According to New York-based Human Rights Watch report which has been released yesterday, much of ethnic Albania's targeted (inaudible) and other minorities in the two-day rampage in mid-March, triggered by the deaths of two children (inaudible) into river by (inaudible), beyond the death and injured 4,000 people, most of them (inaudible) who are displaced in at least 600 homes and (inaudible) were burned by the Albanians.

Any comment?

MR. ERELI: This is referring to the disturbances in Kosovo several months ago. I don't have any comment beyond what we said at the time, which was that this ethnic strife was -- or this violence was of serious concern to us, serious concern to the international community. I would note that the United States and our European partners and allies reacted quickly and reacted decisively in response to this violence and we continue to work with all the parties concerned to ensure that the tensions which produced it are addressed.

QUESTION: One about the Olympics. According to Reuters News Agency, your ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, sought today to dispel the notion that Athens has gone under a U.S. pressure to seek counterterrorism forces, (inaudible) reporters, "NATO is responding to a specific request from Greece," quote-un-quote. Do you know if Nicholas Burns, as your representative to NATO, will be in Athens during the Olympic Games to supervise politically your forces under NATO and (inaudible) in cooperation with Tom Miller?

MR. ERELI: I don't know if Ambassador Burns would be in Athens for the Olympic Games. As far as NATO's participation or role or activities in Athens, I'd refer you to NATO.

QUESTION: There are Chinese reports that alleged the accident I just mentioned as a serious human rights abuse. I just wonder if you have any comments or any --

MR. ERELI: The comments -- my comment is that we are investigating it and as to the status of that investigation and what we can say about it, I'll endeavor to get you an answer later.

Thank you.

(The briefing ended at 1:30 p.m.)

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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