09 December 2004
State Department Noon Briefing, December 9
Negroponte Meeting with UN Secretary General Annan about Iraq/UN Support of Elections in Iraq/Set January 30th Date by Iraqi Government and Election Commission/Election Observers/Security Concerns/U.S. Support for Elections, Banning of Al-Manar Television/Federal Communications Commission/U.S. View of Programs, Japan, Iraq, Venezuela, Tunisia, Libya
State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed reporters December 9.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, December 9, 2004
1:10 p.m. EST
Briefer: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
-- Negroponte Meeting with UN Secretary General Annan about Iraq/UN Support of Elections in Iraq/Set January 30th Date by Iraqi Government and Election Commission/Election Observers/Security Concerns/U.S. Support for Elections
-- Banning of Al-Manar Television/Federal Communications Commission/U.S. View of Programs
-- Extending Deployment of Troops in Iraq/$5 Billion in Assistance/Forgiveness of Portion of Debt
-- Commitment to People of Iraq/Positive Role in International Community
Possible Spreading Out of Iraqi Elections/U.S. Support for Iraqi Goal/Timeline and Process Moving Forward
-- Passage of Media Content Law/Concern from Organizations/Vague Restrictions
-- Warden Message/Threats/Timeline for Attacks
Remarks by Muammar Qadhafi's Son/Possible Release of Bulgarian medics
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:10 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: In the interest of you not wanting to extend this, I won't have any statements. We'll go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: The Middle East. There was a missile strike, one of the assassination attempts, and prior to this Israel had promised to restrain its military operations if there was calm in the lead-up to the election. So, and all they say, they need to weigh the consequences of their actions.
Do you think this action -- how do you judge the wisdom of it?
MR. ERELI: I don't have the facts. I had not seen the reports of this attack, so before beginning to offer an opinion let me -- let us look into it or what actually happened, what the circumstances of this incident are. And that's all I have to say on it for the moment.
QUESTION: So your lack of the facts, you know that there was a missile strike on a car, it's just whether --
MR. ERELI: No, I don't know that. I don't know that. I have not seen the report.
QUESTION: Ambassador Negroponte met today with the Secretary General. Do you have any readout at all of the meeting?
MR. ERELI: I don't. As you know, there are a number of issues that -- involving the UN and Iraq. First and foremost is the participation and support by the UN for elections in Iraq. That is an ongoing subject of discussion between us and the Iraqis and the UN. We've worked for some time in helping to address and responding to very valid and legitimate concerns by the UN about security for their election workers, and we think important progress has been made there. They talked about, I'm sure, the situation on the ground in Iraq today, how things are moving forward towards elections. And I don't know what other topics they might have talked about.
QUESTION: Was the point of the meeting, at least from Ambassador Negroponte's side, to press the Secretary General to send more people to Iraq for the elections?
MR. ERELI: I don't think it's a question of pressing. I think it's, you know, the fact is that, as you know, the UN has raised the ceiling of its workers in -- its election workers in Iraq from, I think, 39 to 56, so that's something that they have already done. And, obviously, they're going to deploy them in the timeline that they think is -- that they're comfortable with.
As I said, we've gone a long way towards meeting security concerns and so we're looking forward to working with the UN and with the Iraqis in helping put together and support the fullest possible elections in Iraq by January 30th.
QUESTION: Adam, while you're on Iraq, the Japan Government -- Japanese Government, decided to keep their troops there for another year. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. ERELI: The United States warmly welcomes Japan's decision to extend the deployment of its Self-Defense Forces to Iraq for an additional 12 months. We would expect that these personnel will continue to make important contributions to reconstruction and humanitarian assistance for Iraq, as they have been doing for these past months. In addition, let me say that we highly value Japan's leadership in reconstruction efforts in Iraq. I think it's important to point out that in addition to Japan's deployment of its Self-Defense Forces, that country has pledged $5 billion in assistance. It chairs the International Reconstruction Fund facility for Iraq. And it hosted the October Donors' Committee Meeting in Tokyo.
In addition, Japan, as part of the Paris Club, agreed to forgive 80 percent of Iraq's debt. All of these contributions exemplify to the people of Iraq the international community's commitment to Iraq's stable and successful future. And the extension of this -- of the deployment is another important symbol for Iraq as it prepares for elections.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up to that.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the fact that about 60 percent, 70 percent of Japanese people think that the Japanese troops should pull out of Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Public opinion polls are what they are. I think the Government of Iraq and the people of -- I'm sorry. The Government of Japan and the people of Japan respect this, have made a commitment to regional stability, made a commitment to the people of Iraq. This is something that reflects, we think, favorably on Japan, and shows that Japan is playing an important and positive role in the international community, and that is a virtue that is not lost on us and we think is not lost on the Japanese public.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything further on the suggestion that the January 30th elections might actually be best spread out over several days past the 30th, and would the United -- is the United States prepared to support spreading out elections if Allawi or others in Iraq ask for that?
MR. ERELI: Again, I'd answer it the same way we answered it yesterday, which is that it's premature to speculate, frankly. Where we are now is that the Election Commission has said and the Government of Iraq have both said that January 30th is the date that they're planning to hold elections on. Our activities are geared towards supporting them to meet that goal.
Things are going well. Voter registration is continuing in all the provinces of Iraq, with the exception of the Anbar province. We've seen more than 200 political parties and individuals registered with the Commission of the International -- or the Independent Election Commission of Iraq for participation in the elections in January.
There are public awareness campaigns going on. Political parties are developing coalitions and candidate lists. Those lists are due by December 10th for the provincial elections and December 15th for the national elections.
So the point here is, there is a timeline, there is a process; that process is moving forward. The Iraqi Government and the Iraqi Election Commission may at some point look at some modifications of the modalities, but that's up to the them. Right now, the -- everybody's operating on the assumption that the elections will be on January 30th.
QUESTION: This is on the Hezbollah TV. It looks like France is going to be making a ruling this week, possibly to ban Al-Manar from their airwaves. I know we talked about this in the past. But is there any more consideration of, perhaps, the U.S. Government banning Al-Manar based on any existing counterterrorism laws, or anything like that?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of deliberations on that subject, but I'd refer you to the -- for more, I'd refer you to the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, to ask whether they're looking in at it. Obviously, we've got -- we've made it clear our position on Hezbollah, as an organization, but on this specific issue, I think I'd refer you to the FCC.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, if you've considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization, then don't you think their -- do you have any position on whether their TV station is spreading any particular terrorist ideology that you've spoken against in the past?
MR. ERELI: Not -- not that I'm -- not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Can you -- can I follow up?
MR. ERELI: Follow up.
QUESTION: Can you just re -- I mean, you've spoken -- is there anything you can say on Al-Manar in terms of, you know, the kind of programming that they --
MR. ERELI: I think Al-Manar -- we have gone on the record on numerous occasions in response to what we consider to be -- I'm trying to think of the harsh enough word for it -- we consider to be disgusting programming that preaches hatred and violence and ideals, or -- not ideals, ideas that are antithetical to the values which we believe in.
They've done a number of programs that I think can be characterized in that way. Whether it rises to the level of that -- whether it reaches the point where U.S. regulatory agencies feel it necessary or are required to take action, you'd have to ask those agencies.
QUESTION: Well, but if you -- just one more. If you think the programming is so disgusting and --
MR. ERELI: I said programs, certain programs.
QUESTION: Some -- certain programs are so disgusting, I mean, don't you have an opinion on whether, you know, Americans should be able to watch such programming?
MR. ERELI: We're not in the business of regulating what Americans watch.
QUESTION: Same general thing.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The President of Venezuela signed a piece of legislation that he says will clean up the airwaves in Venezuela, but some people have a more ominous take on it, and I was just wondering what you make of it.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I guess on the general theme of regulating what people watch, we are deeply troubled by the passage of the Media Content Law, which is what you're referring to, which Venezuela signed into law on December 7th.
I would note that Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have expressed grave concerns about the threats to freedom of expression that are posed by this law.
We certainly join these organizations in sharing these concerns. The law specifically imposes vague restrictions, vague and unclear restrictions on media content, and allows the government regulatory agency to censor content it considers harmful to "public order and national security." The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights specifically considers certain aspects of this law to be incompatible with the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.
Yes. Oh, I'm sorry. You had a question.
QUESTION: On something different. I understand your Embassy in Tunis issued a Warden message today or yesterday related to a terrorist threat. Can you be --
MR. ERELI: Not really. I think the Warden message is pretty -- it's self-explanatory. It talks about a threat message that was sent to a Tunisian American company on December 2nd. It was an anonymous threat. Its credibility has yet to be determined, but in the interests of, I think, sharing what we know with the community, we put out the Warden message, which talked about what the threat said. It identified a timeline for attacks against American institutions in several countries and Tunisia was identified for a non-specific attack in the coming weeks. So it just puts that out there, but I don't have anything more than what's in the Warden message.
QUESTION: Same general area.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: One of Muammar Qadhafi's sons is quoted in the press today as saying that the five Bulgarian nurses, in whose interest the United States has spoken out before, will not be executed. I was just wondering whether you had any reaction to that.
MR. ERELI: We saw those remarks. I would say that they echo what the Libyan Foreign Minister said recently, that Libya would reexamine the verdicts if the families of the infected children in Benghazi were compensated.
Secretary Powell spoke to this issue on Tuesday in Sofia. He said, and I would reiterate, that in our view, the facts are clear and we hope that justice will be served and compassion will be shown.
We have made it -- we made it clear to the Bulgarians, I think we make it clear to the Libyans when we speak with them, that this case should be resolved and the people released.
QUESTION: But what about the idea of compensation?
MR. ERELI: You know, I think, again, as the Secretary said, the issue here is compassion and putting an end to the long -- the incarceration that has gone on for much too long.
QUESTION: Do we have time for just a last one? Are you aware of the presence in Washington of a person who introduces herself as an advisor to President Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire?
MR. ERELI: No, I'm not aware of it.
QUESTION: And her name is Mrs. Sarata Ottro Zirignon-Toure and she gave a news conference at the National Press Center this week.
MR. ERELI: Didn't follow that. Sorry.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Iraq for one second?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: On the Japanese troops, Japan is one of the best, biggest allies of the United States --
MR. ERELI: True.
QUESTION: And the best that they could do is just keep their troops up for another year. They didn't increase the number of troops. They didn't --
MR. ERELI: I don't -- I wouldn't -- you make that sound like that's not a big deal or an important thing.
QUESTION: Oh, it's a significant contribution.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: But are you not disappointed that they could do a little bit more?
MR. ERELI: No. We are very -- we are, I think, very satisfied with Japan's contribution. As I said, you know, the troops are a significant part of that, but it goes much beyond -- it goes much beyond the Self-Defense Forces. It goes to a very broad political, economic, diplomatic commitment to Iraq and to the future of Iraq, and that's -- they're playing a very important role internationally in helping bring support to the needs of the Iraqi people. The Defense Forces there are part of that, as I said, a significant part, but not the whole picture. And if you look at the whole picture, if you look at any one of the ingredients of the picture, parts of the picture, they, in and of themselves, are noteworthy and important, and all taken together I think are really exemplary.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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