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06 January 2005

State Department Noon Briefing, January 6

Asian tsunami/Consular Affairs, Sudan, Ukraine, Israel/Palestinian, Iraq, China/Taiwan

State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the press January 6.

Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, January 6, 2005
12:15 p.m. EST

Briefer: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman

-- Status of American Citizens Affected by Tsunami/2,500 Welfare and Whereabouts Inquiries/U.S. Sparing No Effort in Response
-- 17 Americans Dead/18 Missing and Presumed Dead Secretary Powell's Announcement in Jakarta/Core Group Successfully/Accomplished Mission of Coordinating International Response/Folded in UN Effort for Long Term/Coordination and Disaster Relief/NGO Integral Part of Effort/UN and Next Steps
-- Consular Officers Work on Inquiries/Positive Response from American Public/Cooperation with Interlocutors
-- Number of Inquiries Steadily Gone Down/Answering of Inquiries Gone Up/Significant Number of Inquiries to Resolve
-- 2,500 Inquiries/No Speculation on Hypotheticals and Unknowns
-- Consular Presence in Affected Areas
-- Embassy Registering of American Travelers to Other Countries
-- Tsunami Aid Versus Aid to Other Countries/$350 Million U.S. Contribution/Accountability of Dispersing Aid/Aid from Oil Producing Counties/Needs for the Future/Appropriate Contributed/Planning Accordingly/40 Million Spent of Relief Supplies/Freedom Corps/Donations by Other Entities
-- Reports of Terrorism Infiltration
-- U.S. Military Providing Unmatched Assistance

-- Resolving of Ongoing Conflict/Fighting Continues

-- Central Election Rulings on Outcome of Election/No Certification of Results

-- U.S. Election Observer Delegation/U.S. Providing Financial Assistance for Election/Working Toward Peaceful Election

-- Working Toward a Peaceful and Secure Election

-- Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with Minister Chen Yunlin/Cross Strait Issues/Anti-Secession Law



12:15 p.m. EST

MR. ERELI: Hello, everybody. We'll begin today with an update on status of American citizens who we are inquiring about as a result of the tsunami disasters. The number of welfare and whereabouts inquiries we're working on at the moment is 2,500. That's down considerably from yesterday and considerably from the beginning of the week, where we started at 6,000, so I think we're making good progress.

It represents the diligent efforts of hundreds of people, are working around the world, to help answer the concerns of American citizens on behalf of their loved ones and acquaintances. The task is obviously far from over and we will continue sparing no effort to find out everything we can about -- in response to these inquiries.

We are also able today to confirm 17 Americans who have died as a result of this disaster. Obviously, our condolences go out to the families of those victims. The number of presumed dead is down by 2, from 20 to 18. That's a result of being able to classify one of the presumed dead from yesterday as confirmed, and the other decrease is because one person was reported twice under different names, so we've been able to eliminate one of the names on the presumed dead list.

Again, we will continue, continue our efforts to respond to and find answers to all the inquiries we've received.

Finally, as you all know, as the Secretary announced in Jakarta today, the core group which was established in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami disaster to help coordinate and catalyze the international -- immediate international response to this disaster, after about a week of activity, has successfully accomplished its mission in terms of mobilizing and coordinating the international response and is now being folded into a UN-led effort that will focus on the longer term recovery and rehabilitation effort.

I think if you look back at what the core group accomplished, there are some very interesting things to note. First of all, it was a new kind of diplomacy. It was done by, frankly, conference calls with members of the senior political directors who were represented on the core group, working by phone, not issuing communiqués, not having lengthy meetings or agendas, but working the phones in an action-oriented way to mobilize the international response, to avoid duplication of effort, to get what was needed quickly to the areas where it was needed.

And, in that respect, there are some notable successes: The establishment of Utapao as a logistics base in Thailand; the coordination of bringing the UN and having its logistics hub set up where the military hub was; getting over 14,000 U.S. personnel to the region to deliver 800,000 tons of -- or 800,000 pounds of relief to the region; identifying gaps in the effort and, for instance, providing helicopter lift where it to be, when it needed to be there; and finally, mobilizing over $1.6 billion in donor relief from the core group and well over $2 billion in relief from the international community as a whole.

So we think the core group served a useful and timely purpose, and now the focus is turning to a UN-coordinated effort, which we welcome and we certainly look forward to pursuing in Geneva in the week ahead. And that's it in the way of opening announcements.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I think you were saying one country -- I forget -- Thailand had given you information you wanted. You were waiting for information. Where does that stand?

MR. ERELI: I don't have any update on that for you.

QUESTION: All right. Well, what's been on the list now so rapidly now?

MR. ERELI: Hard work on behalf of -- a combination of things. Number one, obviously, hard work on the part of our consular officers and officials both in Washington and in the field. Let's remember we're doing -- we're working flat-out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to resolve these inquiries and that's paying off.

Second, I think - and this is not in priority order, obviously -- but second, I think the positive response from the American public. And in this respect, I will salute you, the press and the media, for helping to get the message out that it's important for people to call and if they have knowledge about the whereabouts of those who they've called about previously or for those who might be the subject of inquiries to call in, I think that has had a big impact on lowering the numbers.

And also, as we've said consistently, the excellent cooperation we are getting from our interlocutors, the people we're working with around the world, whether they be host governments in Thailand, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, whether they be representatives of the travel industry, hotels, travel agents, airlines, and NGOs who are also active in the region.

So when you take all that together, that kind of sustained effort -- sustained, intensive effort focused on getting the facts and working together with all the different elements that might have some knowledge of this vast puzzle, the numbers go down.

QUESTION: I know it's hard to generalize, but with, what, 3,500 names coming off the list in less than a week, basically, what's happened? Have people out there been negligent about getting in touch with either the U.S. Government or their own families, friends, companies they work for? What have you had an upsurge in? People -- or is it now that communications is getting to be more possible?

MR. ERELI: Again, I would say there are probably -- there are a couple of explanations. First of all, for -- in the early part of this crisis, as we were reducing names, we were also getting or --


MR. ERELI: -- as we were responding to inquiries and finding out and being to close them out, we were also getting more, so your net gain wasn't as dramatic. The number of inquiries we've received -- we have -- the rate of receiving inquiries has steadily gone down and the rate of answering inquiries has gone up. So I think that -- we've reached maybe -- I don't want to get ahead of myself -- but we're, at this point, seeing a crossover between the two. That's number one.

Number two, you know, again, a lot of these inquiries were, you know, my -- an acquaintance or a relative who I haven't heard from for a long time, last time I heard from them they were in the region and I'm just concerned that they may still be there and they may be harmed. And so people have responded to that and we've been able to account for a lot of people that way.

There are still, you know, a significant number of inquiries that we have before us and that remain unresolved, and that are going to take some dedicated and persistent effort to finding out the facts, finding out everything we can know. And that's what we're focused on for now.

QUESTION: Adam, can you just clarify, 2,600 inquiries or --

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. 2,500.


MR. ERELI: Welfare and whereabouts inquiries.

QUESTION: Because people are using names, saying 2,500 names, and Barry just used it in his question and you responded to it. Are you saying 2,500 inquiries?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I will classify them. As I said at the beginning, we are classifying them as welfare and whereabouts inquiries -- 2,500.

QUESTION: And there are not 2,500 people's names?

MR. ERELI: Most welfare and whereabouts inquiries have a name associated with them, obviously. But I -- but we are reluctant to -- and from the very beginning we've been reluctant to --

QUESTION: Right, I understand that.

MR. ERELI: -- make a direct link between an inquiry and an individual.

QUESTION: I'm just saying today that there's been some interchanging of names and inquiries. And so, if 2,500 inquiries now mean 2,500 names --

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I'm not suggesting that.


MR. ERELI: You can ask the question any way you want. I'll give the answer the same -- 2500 welfare and whereabouts inquiries.

QUESTION: Okay. But he asked about names and you didn't -- and you responded.

MR. ERELI: Like I said, I'm not paying as much attention to how the question is phrased as to what the information requested is. The information requested, as I understand it, is how do you account for your success and the relative rapid rate of resolving these 2500 -- I will call them inquiries. You're free to call them names if you want, but we don't look at them, consider them, refer to them, treat them as names.

Names are part of the data that the -- in the inquiry, but it's -- we're looking at knocking off as many inquiries as possible and therefore reducing the uncertainty of those who have asked about people.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- sharp reduction in duplication.

MR. ERELI: Yes, we have.

QUESTION: So, the chances that six inquiries deal with the same one person have diminished considerably?

MR. ERELI: Yes, I would say that's true.

QUESTION: So, the number of inquiries is far more likely now to match the number of people?

MR. ERELI: Well, I'm hesitant to use terms like far more likely, far less likely. We're trying to deal in specifics. We're trying to deal in facts. We're trying to deal in things that we know and we can confirm. And that's why, when we speak about resolving inquiries, it means that we are sure of what we're doing. And that is also why I hesitate to speculate about individuals, about names, because we just don't -- until we have all the facts and we know exactly what's happened in a given inquiry, it's hard to -- we don't want to be misleading.

QUESTION: I got you.


QUESTION: Just to follow on that, the other countries have been -- as you know, have been doing this in a very different way, and including countries that track their travelers exactly the same way we do, by asking them to register on a website when they're overseas. Australia, for example, says -- has been telling its people -- we have had 80,000 inquiries regarding 10,000 people, very clearly defined.

They give the low number of confirmed dead that we give, then they say, 72 cases of grave concern. These are people we know were in areas hard hit, their families haven't heard from them since, 500 plus unaccounted for. Why are the Australians able to give such specific information to their citizens and we still can't even say how many people are unaccounted for, let alone how many may be of very serious concern, how many are unaccounted for? Why the difference?

MR. ERELI: I can't explain it to you. I -- you know, this all --

QUESTION: Do we not have information?

MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way: I would answer it the way I answered the previous question. Until we have the facts in a particular case, until we're sure of what the status of a particular inquiry is, we are not going to engage in hypotheticals, in probabilities, in suggestions that such-and-such might be the case or such-and-such might be the case, or, in classifying, you know, one case as, well, it's likely that they might have been there -- it's more or less likely that they might have been there or might not have been there. It's just -- that is dealing with unknowables, and we're not going to deal with -- we're not going to speculate or talk about that which we do not know.

Now, other countries might deal with the information in a different way. But we will tell you, we will tell you when we know and can confirm, and are sure and have solid information on which to base our statement.

QUESTION: So you're saying it's a decision on the presentation of the information, not necessarily the information that's been gathered? You think the information that we've gathered on the ground is as good as information that other governments have gathered on the ground?

MR. ERELI: Well, you know, in each case, the status of the information is different. In each inquiry, you've got different levels of information. And our position is that until we have sufficient information to be absolutely sure of what we're saying, we're going to keep it in the categories that we've been discussing the issue in.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you to take a question, too, if you don't have it handy?

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

QUESTION: I've been unable to get an answer of how many, since last week, of how many consular or embassy officials or employees are on the ground in these locations working on these cases. Do you have specific numbers?

MR. ERELI: I've seen those numbers. I don't have them now. Obviously, they change. But I can give them to you --

QUESTION: And can you let us know, like, there were this many on December 26th; by this date, there were this many, so we have a way to judge?

MR. ERELI: I will endeavor to get you as full a picture of our consular presence as possible.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) did cover them.

MR. ERELI: And on -- yeah, I mean, if you look at our previous briefings, I have spoken to that. I remember speaking, how many people in Phuket, how many people in Bangkok, how many people in Sri Lanka. So, in past briefings, it has been a matter of public record.


MR. ERELI: And I'll refer you to past transcripts. I will also endeavor to get you --


MR. ERELI: -- a picture of who we've got on the ground -- how many people we've got on the ground and where, as of today.


MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: You mentioned, in your opening remarks, that the international relief effort represents a new approach to public diplomacy.

MR. ERELI: No, what I said is the core group was a - you know, an interesting kind of new diplomacy, in that it was a multilateral effort at a fairly senior level. Remember, these are political directors. Our effort was chaired by Mr. Grossman, Under Secretary of Political Affairs.

So, it was an intensive and immediate effort of multilateral coordination and disaster relief. At a senior level, that, in some ways, was virtual diplomacy because they were working from -- think of who the members were: India, Australia, Japan, the United States, later Canada and the Netherlands.

They didn't have any conferences. They didn't have any meetings and agendas and communications. They worked it by daily teleconference call and action-oriented and basically worked themselves out of a job.

QUESTION: Okay. So, my question was going to be this virtual diplomacy, as you describe it. It's happening, though, because of really, like a once in a lifetime sort of disaster. Are you suggesting, though, that this virtual diplomacy could be extrapolated or could be extended to other sorts of situations in the future? Or is it really only meant for these sorts of disasters?

MR. ERELI: I'm not suggesting that any -- I'm not suggesting any conclusions should be drawn from this. I'm just noting that this core group performed a unique function, in a unique way, in very unique circumstances, and I think that's noteworthy, especially the details of how that worked. And it would certainly be useful to look at and draw lessons from when considering how to respond to a crisis, how to coordinate action diplomatically in a multilateral setting. There are some very notable features of what just happened.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: With the response to this entire crisis, Secretary Powell, through Richard Boucher today, announced in Jakarta that we're taking a cautious -- meaning the United States -- a cautious approach on distributing cash. And with the disbanding of that core group, are you, in effect, outsourcing that response? Because there are government agencies such as FEMA, NOAA, NIH, which do this work very nicely.

And secondly, if the United Nations is going to get into this mix and other NGOs, is Andrew Natsios talking to those particular NGOs on a daily basis and getting the situation updates from them as well?

MR. ERELI: NGOs have always been -- have been, from the very beginning, an integral part of the relief efforts. And our activity, the activity of the U.S. Government, the international activity has been integrated with the NGOs intricately, again, from the very beginning.

As far as disbursement of assistance and future coordination of assistance and those involved in providing the assistance, I take issue with the suggestion that it's either being outsourced or that there is some new cause for concern or caution or whatever. The fact of the matter is that in any crisis like this, you've got a whole variety of actors working to provide relief, whether it's in terms of direct assistance, or logistical assistance, or appealing for assistance or coordinating assistance.

I mean, there's all -- there's a huge number of layers, and one of the functions, one of the very important functions of the core group was, in the immediate aftermath of this crisis to help set up and organize the relief effort. They've done that. Now, as we move forward into the medium and longer-term relief and rehabilitation and recovery phase, given the nature of the assistance, given the nature of the programs, given the nature of the needs, the UN is an appropriate and able organization to take things over.

Yes, Adi.

QUESTION: Of the roughly six million or so travelers, American travelers, who go overseas, do you know how many of them, roughly --

MR. ERELI: I think it was 60 million was their number --

QUESTION: Is it 60? Sorry.

MR. ERELI: -- that they started using.

QUESTION: Of those, do you know how many actually register at overseas embassies?

MR. ERELI: I don't know the exact number, but it's not -- it's certainly nowhere near all of them. And obviously, it's optional. But in cases like this, it points to the utility of people registering just so that in case something happens and people are looking for you, there's some trail. And again, people should know, Privacy Act Waivers -- I'm sorry -- people's personal information is covered by the Privacy Act. We can't give out the information. It only serves - frankly -- the utility of this is that when people who care about you are looking for you, it helps to find you.

QUESTION: And in reference to the last week or so, one of the major goals of State Department officials when they're interviewed, as well as journalists, when they broadcast reports on unaccounted for Americans, they point this out that a lot of Americans don't register. I was wondering are you planning on putting out some sort of new outreach program to educate and inform Americans who may not know to register on websites for overseas embassies?

MR. ERELI: No, we're not planning any new outreach. But obviously, the more we can educate the public, the more we can convey the message that there is a utility to you, the traveling public, to registering at the consulate -- at the embassy or the consulate, the more helpful it will be.

Yes, Andrea.

QUESTION: Adam, I don't know if you have this kind of detail or specificity, but when you appeal, as you have over the last couple of days, to family members who believe that one of their loved ones may have been in the region to give the State Department, and if you mean the State Department, not the State Department, then where -- DNA and dental records -- how do people go about doing this?

MR. ERELI: Well, we have not launched such a public appeal. This is -- that issue is something that is very sensitive, very private. And in cases where we have reason -- in cases where we need this from an individual or from a family, we deal with it on a one-to-one, private basis, not in a public way. And we haven't made that kind of public appeal. Obviously, it's painful. Obviously, it's difficult. Unfortunately, sometimes, it's necessary and when it is necessary, we try to do it in a way that takes full consideration and understanding and sympathy with the needs and feelings of the people involved.

QUESTION: So presumably, it's only made in a case where you've actually found some remains?

MR. ERELI: Or where there is determined to be a need for it.

QUESTION: What other need for it would there be?

MR. ERELI: I mean, I don't want to -- again, I don't want to say yes, because maybe that's not the -- to your question because maybe that's not the full answer. You said, "only in these cases." Well, I don't want to just say, "Oh, yes, only in those cases." There may be other cases that I just don't know about.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On concerns that have been expressed about making sure that relief that goes to the tsunami victims is not diverted from other relief programs around the world, Powell -- Secretary Powell referenced that today -- what steps is the U.S. taking or can the U.S. take to try to prevent that from happening?

MR. ERELI: As Secretary Powell suggested, the way we're going about this, in a sort of deliberate, analytical, coordinated way is designed to both be responsive to the needs of those who require help, but also to preserve the large number of programs we currently have underway for people in other disaster areas such as Ethiopia, such as the hurricanes in the Caribbean, such as Liberia and elsewhere.

So, we've donated three -- we've provided $350 million in relief funds to -- in response to this disaster. That 350 million has been coordinated closely with the Office of Management and Budget and Congress. We've said we will -- based on our assessment of the needs, based on what other countries are doing, based on what the long-term prospects for recovery are, we are prepared to give more.

But we will do that carefully, we will do it deliberately based on a plan, and we will do that in coordination -- in consultation with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that not only are we helping those who need help, but we're not hurting those who we need to -- who we should not forget. And you can have both. It's not a -- one does not need to come at the expense of the other. But it does require planning and it does require, I think, moving with a certain sense of deliberation and not just, as some would have us do, throw money at a problem.

QUESTION: Are there - does the U.S. have specific concerns about other nations that have diverted monies. I mean, are there specific concerns that the U.S. is aware of? (Inaudible) cases or anything?

MR. ERELI: No, not that I'm aware of. It's just that - you know, you've got to -- when you're talking about large sums of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, you've got to plan for that and you got to -- you've got to be responsible with your use of public funds and you've got to be held accountable for your use of public funds and held accountable to Congress, held accountable to the taxpayer and held accountable, frankly, to justifying it, vis-à-vis other needs.

We think a case can be made, but we want to make that case on the basis of a clear understanding of what the needs are and a good plan for how to take care of everybody with what we've got. And that's what we've begun doing with the Secretary and Governor Bush's travel to the region. They will be reporting to the President early next week and it will be on this basis that we come up with a way forward.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Adam, the theme reports, and I saw this morning, about -- this was specifically South Korean aid workers, very concerned that apparently, the airport in Banda Aceh, they said there are relief workers who are members of a terrorist organization, some Islamic Mujahedin-type people. Are you aware of such reports? Are you concerned that terrorists might mingle with legitimate workers that might be helping people in those areas?

MR. ERELI: I haven't seen those reports. I am certainly not aware of any concerns that have been expressed that have been brought to my attention of terrorist infiltration of relief efforts. It strikes me as a bit of a stretch. But again, I'll refrain from editorial commentary and just say I haven't been made aware of any such problems.


QUESTION: Last evening on the Charlie Rose show, Dennis Ross was talking about the aid that's needed and he said that if only one percent of oil revenues in the Gulf States -- that would be roughly $600 million -- were made available to Indonesia, it would help to bring a Muslim-type entity in with a Muslim-type government and its people. Are you talking to those Gulf States to maybe facilitate that?

MR. ERELI: First of all, the states of the Gulf and other oil-producing countries have been making contributions and are certainly reflected in the large number of -- the large amount of international aid that has been pledged so far. Second of all, we are going to many of the oil-producing states and urging them to be generous in this time of need, not on the basis of religion, because that's not the issue here. The issue is that there are people in desperate need, number one; and number two, they're going to -- the cost for this, for responding to this disaster, over the next many years is going to be considerable and we're going to need long-term, meaningful help from everybody. And that is a point we're making.

But they certainly have, at this point, or to this point, stepped up and helped. And that's fully recognized.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific as far as which oil-producing countries you've asked?

MR. ERELI: No, I -- the ones that immediately come to mind, as far as I know, but I can't be more specific, no.


QUESTION: Is the fact that you're urging them to, perhaps, contribute more, are you saying that even though they've stepped up and offered some contribution, you don't think that's enough?

MR. ERELI: No, that's certainly not our suggestion. Our suggestion is that those who can should, and beginning with us, and those who can already have.

QUESTION: But Adam, that doesn't really make sense. If certain countries have already donated money and you're not saying that you think they should be donating more, why would you --?

MR. ERELI: I didn't say that I didn't think they should be donating more. I said that we believe that those with the capability should, you know, that there is a long-term need here and that we are in this for the long haul. And that it's important that those with particular capability live up to that capability and help out commensurate with their needs.


MR. ERELI: And that does not suggest that they have not in the past. And it does not suggest that they will not in the future. It simply is an expression of need and an encouragement to work together with everybody else on this very important cause.

QUESTION: Is the United States preparing to announce long-term plans beyond the 350 million then?

MR. ERELI: Where we are right now is that we recognize there will be needs in the future, that we have said very clearly that we are in this for the long haul and that we have contributed an amount that we believe is appropriate to the needs of the moment and that we will be assessing, based on what we've seen, what future needs might be and planning accordingly.

QUESTION: So that sounds like yes?

MR. ERELI: No, it sounds like we'll discuss it and see what we can do, see what needs to be done and make decisions on that basis.


QUESTION: In reference to the 350 million, some of it has already been spent. I think the latest figure from yesterday was around 40 million or so, right?

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Of that 40 million, how much of that is actual cash and how much of that is in-kind donations, such as diverting shipments intended for certain locations of rice and instead of sending them to Indonesia or to Sri Lanka, for example?

MR. ERELI: My understanding is, it's -- the 40 million is money that has been spent on relief supplies, whether that be food, whether it be tents, whether it be water for purification kits, et cetera, et cetera, it is money actually spent.

QUESTION: Okay. But of the 350 million, some of it is going to be -- in-kind donations are going to count against that money down the road, right?

MR. ERELI: No. I think it's going to -- again, I'll check and see, but my understanding is that it -- as we described it earlier, it is like an account of money on which to draw down on and that it is -- the money goes to an NGO or USAID spends it itself to buy food to bring to the region, to buy medical supplies. So when you see, you know, figures like $16 million worth of rice delivered every day or, you know, $10 million worth of medical supplies, those medical supplies were bought with that $350 million. So, it's not talking about in-kind stuff. It's talking about stuff that somebody pays for with that money.

QUESTION: A follow-on real quick, Adam. Are there credits or --

MR. ERELI: No, this is --

QUESTION: -- loans within the 350 million value?

MR. ERELI: No, this is not money to be paid back.



QUESTION: Adam, because there are going to be special events and concerts and other fundraisers, do those particular entities that raise cash and/or actual physical items, do they have to come to USAID and to the State Department?


QUESTION: Or vice versa to --

MR. ERELI: Countries or companies?

QUESTION: Well, no, these NGOs and concert promoters or whatever to make certain that the correct items and/or distribution is going to specific areas?

MR. ERELI: No. I mean, obviously, there is an effort on behalf of everybody to procure items that are needed and deliver them to places where they need them and not to duplicate efforts and not to -- and to avoid bottlenecks and that stuff. And that includes, as I said, NGOs and private contributions and governments. And we've spoken from the very beginning and referred you to websites, particularly the USAID website, where you can find links about how to -- you know, how to help if you want to help.

And those links and that information is designed to avoid the kind of inefficient effort and inefficient use of resources that can result from uncoordination. But it's not all being done through USAID. It's being done through a -- as I said, through the coordination of groups like the core group and the UN.


QUESTION: In reference to the 350 million, did you just say that none of it's going to be used for loans? Because my impression was, down the road, it was possible, in an effort to jumpstart local businesses affected by the tsunami, that you might offer microcredit loans.

MR. ERELI: It's microcredit finance. But I don't -- I'll check. But my understanding is that this $350 million is not something that anybody needs to pay back.

QUESTION: And a follow-up to the USAID Pentagon briefing from the other day. The 10 million in cash was given -- is being given, as we speak, from USAID to people of Sri Lanka --

MR. ERELI: Employment --

QUESTION: -- to help in the recovery efforts?

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has that now been extended to other countries?

MR. ERELI: I don't know.



QUESTION: Does the State Department have a figure on private donations by American people so far?

MR. ERELI: I saw the Secretary used the figure, $200 million, so far. I would refer you to the Freedom -- what is it, Freedom --

QUESTION: Freedom Corps.

MR. ERELI: Is it Freedom Corps? The Freedom Corps website. And also the USAID website that have links to NGOs and other groups who are monitoring the level of private giving groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce and others who are keeping track of that. You know, obviously, with the effort of President Bush and President Clinton, this number is going to be going up pretty steadily and will represent a very important part of the overall effort.

But again, 200 million was the last number that I saw, but I wouldn't say with any degree of confidence that that's where it is now. Because again, this is a -- as we've seen throughout the response to this crisis, people are moving quickly and people are moving generously.

QUESTION: Further on the South Korean Government claim, could you take the question of whether the U.S. has received a request to provide security for South Korean aid workers in Aceh, based on the supposed establishment by a radical Islamic group of a relief operation in that area?

MR. ERELI: I will take the question.


QUESTION: Can I change of subject?

MR. ERELI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about Sudan and the Secretary's decision to go to the signing of the peace accord?

MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does this decision mean that the State Department is confident that the Government of Sudan will stop forced relocation of citizens and, you know, is really committed to working towards peace with the rebels?

MR. ERELI: The visit is a recognition that -- of the importance of this agreement and that it marks a watershed in the decades-old conflict in Sudan. It does -- and it certainly will be an opportunity for us to signal to the Government of Sudan and to all parties in Sudan the importance and the value we place on resolving political differences through dialogue, through negotiation, and not through violence. And as far as what it portends for the future, that really depends on the Sudanese and the actions that they take to help resolve the other ongoing conflict in their country, which is the conflict in Darfur.

Fighting there continues. There is, obviously, as we all know, a very concerted and determined effort by the international community in the front row of which -- in the front ranks of which is the United States, to bring that conflict to an end. It is persisting. And obviously, the degree to which that conflict is resolved, the degree to which the Government of Sudan moves to address political differences and stop rampant human rights abuses will have an impact on where we go in our relationship with Sudan.


MR. ERELI: Oh, yeah.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. I'd like to return to the relief effort if I may; I forgot earlier. There was a wire story from Banda Aceh that quoted a UN official criticizing the American military's relief efforts. And I wanted to know if you had any response that the aid mission -- that the military folks were failing to coordinate and provide critical information, said Michael Elmquist, a UN official in charge of relief there, that the U.S. military was failing to provide information and feedback to other relief organizations. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. ERELI: It's hard to -- really, it's hard to respond to remarks by one of thousands of UN and NGO workers in a region that is very chaotic and crowded with people trying to help. I would just make a couple of remarks.

The United States military has provided assistance that nobody else in the world can provide, and it has meant the difference between life and death and a bright future for thousands of people. And that needs to be recognized, number one.

Number two, the U.S. military has done an incredible job in clearing out a lot of bottlenecks in Banda Aceh, to start with, the air traffic control problem at the small and heavily-trafficked airport in that region, and that should be recognized.

The third thing that, you know, was communicated to me by our colleagues, the Department of Defense, just before coming out here is that if you look at what we're doing in the region, it represents $20 billion dollars of assets, of U.S. military assets in the region devoted to the relief effort, at a cost of -- at an operating cost of $6 million a day.

That is a huge effort. And as the Secretary, I think, has very eloquently said, the work of over 14,000 men and women in the region, on the ground, is making a vital and important difference in the lives of thousands of people. And obviously, not everything is perfect, obviously, not everything is working according -- working like clockwork, but I think the value and importance of what our military is doing and the outstanding coordination that they've had with the host countries and all of the other NGOs and local organizations really is a testimony to the dedication and expertise of everybody involved.

And I would also point to the -- something I may have mentioned earlier, which is the creation of a coordination hub, but for the military, and the linking up of that hub with the UN effort at Utapao in Thailand, it's a good example of how the U.S. military, at a senior level, is working with the UN at a senior level to avoid the kind of problems that are inevitable when you've got such a high level -- a high degree of activity, a high level of activity in such a small space.


QUESTION: Adam, I don't know if you saw this or not, but the Ukraine Supreme Court turned down a protest or a complaint about the election from Yanukovych. Does this mean that the United States now recognizes Yuschenko as the winner and congratulates him, et cetera?

MR. ERELI: We haven't reached that point yet. Formal Prime Minister Yanukovych has presented a number of complaints that have been ruled on by the Central Election Commission that have been appealed -- sent to the Supreme Court on appeal. Some have been rejected by the Court of Appeal or refuse to be heard by the Court of Appeal. I don't know what the term of art is. There may be others in the future. So I really can't speak to the Ukrainian legal process in this matter.

What is clear, however, is that the Central Election Commission has not certified final results. They will not certify final results until all of the complaints and challenges are investigated and resolved. That, to our understanding, has not yet happened and I can't tell you when it will. And until it does, we're really not in a position to comment on the final results of the election.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Adam, when the election commission comes out and declares the winner officially, if the Secretary is still in office, does he intend to go there for the inauguration?

MR. ERELI: Ask me when it happens.


QUESTION: Adam, with respect to the other elections Sunday in the Palestinian areas, Senator Biden last night, also on the interview on Charlie Rose, says he's been asked by the White House to head a, I guess, a monitoring group to work both with the Palestinians and Israelis for Sunday. And would that group be also extended to work with the Iranian election, the end of January?

MR. ERELI: The Iraqi?


MR. ERELI: Oh. Let's take one election at a time. We announced two days ago, I believe, the official delegation to observe the Palestinian elections, which is headed by Senators Biden and Sununu and will include notable Palestinian Americans and -- as well as our consulate general in Jerusalem, David Pearce. They will be visiting polling stations, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and presenting a report on their assessment. We certainly look forward to that. That is also in addition to private groups that -- groups of private Americans and others who will be observing the elections. They will be playing an important role as well.

I would note that the United States Government is providing a million dollars to support the work of these American and other international observers in addition to $2.5 million in technical assistance to the Palestinians for their presidential elections. So this is all part of a strong interest on our part in the elections and a -- I think, a readiness to work with the victors in that election towards engagement with the Israelis and the achievement of the President's vision of two states.


QUESTION: And a follow-up. Senator Biden was also very much saying that he's worried about the Government of Iran and/or terrorists that are backed by Iran to either mess up those elections in the Palestinian areas and/or in Iraq, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and other similar groups. Are you going to, in any way, in writing, put any warnings out to both the Governments of Iraq -- or sorry -- of Iran and Syria to stay back, to work to end their tactics with some of the militants?

MR. ERELI: We've obviously made clear our views on this subject. With respect to the Palestinian elections, we are hopeful and committed to working for a peaceful election. That certainly is -- it's certainly our view that that is what the Palestinian Authority wants and what the Palestinian Authority is working for. And we've seen excellent cooperation between the Palestinians and the Israelis to make these elections peaceful and inclusive and encourage as broad a participation as possible. That is welcome and that is what we hope is going to happen and what we are working toward making happening.

As far as the Iraqi elections go, look, everybody knows that there is a determined group of terrorists and criminals, frankly, who are trying to stand in the way of peaceful elections throughout Iraq. The United States and the Government of Iraq are working together, as well as members, other members of the coalition in Iraq to provide security for the Iraqi elections, to ensure that the vast majority of Iraqis who want to vote can do so peacefully, can express their political preferences and can get a government that represents them.

It's going to be hard. People are working intensively. They've been doing so for a number of months now and the important point to underscore is that the Government of Iraq continues to reiterate its commitment to defying those seeking to -- defying those who seek to frustrate the will of the people and reiterate its commitment to hold elections on -- at the end of January, as has been the plan.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. We've got one more question.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Yesterday Deputy Secretary Armitage met with a Chinese official, and as you told us, they talk about China's proposed anti-secession law. And you can you tell us if the meeting has relieved some of U.S. concerns about the implication that such a law may have?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, I really don't have much more to add to what I said on the meeting yesterday before it took place other than to say it did take place and they did discuss Cross-Straits issues, including the proposed anti-secession law. And we took the opportunity to restate our well-known positions on Cross-Straits dialogue.

Thank you.

(The briefing ended at 1:07 p.m.)

(end transcript)

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

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